Lionfish Hunting: Are lionfish edible?

It’s no secret that lionfish are an incredibly invasive species that ravage local reef populations. Government efforts include paying people to hunt lionfish (yes, you read that correctly). Read our blog post last week to learn about how to make money hunting lionfish!

The logical next question would be: what do I do with all this fish I caught? Are lionfish edible?

Yes, they are! Lionfish are venomous, not poisonous. That means that their venom is kept in a totally separate compartment of their body, which you wouldn’t consume if you ate a lionfish.

Lionfish have spines on their back made of cartilage, and each of these spines has 3 grooves in it that contain the lionfish’s venom glands and venom. When someone gets stung, the skin covering these spines gets pushed down, the sharp spine punctures the skin and venom flows into the victim’s wound.

The advantage of this venomous spine mechanism is that if you just cut off a lionfish’s spines at their base, then you cut off all of the venom and the venom gland tissue! This is the only dangerous part of eating a lionfish: cutting off the spines. Make sure that you have good shears that can cut through cartilage easily, and that you have StingMaster on hand in case you poke yourself. So many people get stung by lionfish when they’re cutting the spines off of their backs, and a lionfish sting is no joke. Unless you want your day ruined, grab a jar of StingMaster and slap it on if you get even the smallest of pokes from a lionfish spine: it’s better to be safe than sorry!

After spines are cut off, it’s easy to just filet the fish, and the cleaned filets are absolutely safe to eat and will not contain any venom. 

Some people are concerned about ciguatera poisoning, since lionfish eat so many other fish. While the risk is minimally there, there aren’t any recorded cases of ciguatera poisoning that were directly linked to eating a lionfish, so you’re good! 

In conclusion, lionfish are totally safe to eat – as long as you don’t take a bite out of the venomous spines. So grab a pair of shears and some StingMaster and start cleaning those lionfish you caught off of the reef! Not only have you done the reefs a favour, but you’ve done your stomach one too! Check our one of our recipes in our community page to get inspired for your own lionfish dish 🙂 

Cover image source: https://ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/displayimage-4238.html

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