May 25--It's scary looking, venomous ... and available at Whole Foods.
Lionfish, the invasive species of fish known for having 18 venomous spines and being an enemy of Florida wildlife officials because it gobbles up other native species, is now being sold at the grocery chain, including stores in Palm Beach County.
A tasty, white fish (kind of like Grouper) is being sold for $8.99 a pound through May 31, then $9.99 per pound starting June 1 in Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach Lakes, Wellington, and Boca Raton stores.
The fish is offered in all Palm Beach County stores, with the Boca Raton location coming away as the top seller in the area. According to Corey Hawkins, supervisor in the store's seafood department, customers have been thrilled with the lionfish offerings and they have been handing out samples and educating customers on the species throughout the selling time.
More than 14,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters on May 14 and 15 as part of a removal and awareness festival hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This was a massive improvement from the total of 2,975 removed last year. FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley told The Palm Beach Post in March that eradicating the species completely isn't likely so they're trying to find alternative methods of using the fish.
Some believe that getting the general population to get used to eating lionfish will help decrease its numbers in Florida waters. The lionfish sold in stores have had their venomous spikes removed beforehand.
"We definitely don't claim that we will ever be able to eradicate the species," Nalley said. "The possibility of eradicating them is pretty small. But what we want to encourage is control of the population."
The Lionfish is not known to be native, but can reproduce year-round with females reproducing every 2-4 days. Lionfish.com reports the species causes problems because it "can eat prey over half the size of their own body."
While trying to eradicate the lionfish is a worthy ambition, it's also not easy because the fish doesn't normally take to hooks, meaning fishermen must spear or catch them in cages, which isn't as efficient for catching large numbers at a time.
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