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Lionfish Facts

Pterois volitans

Pterois miles

The genus name, Pterois, pronounced (tare-oh-eese) is defined as “lionfish.” The word Pterois comes from the Greek word “pteroeis” meaning “feathered” or “winged”

The species name, volitans, pronounced (vole-ee-tahnz), is Latin for “flying” or “hovering,” the complement of the Latin word “volitō,” which means “to fly” or “to hover.”

The species name, miles, pronounced (mee-layz), is Latin for “soldiering,” the complement of the Latin word “mīlitō,” which means “to soldier.”

They are so beautiful. I want one or should I?

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Lionfish are voracious predators. Their gluttonous feeding means they will eat as much as they can physically manage as often as the opportunity presents itself. Their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal volume and have been found to eat almost any marine creature it can fit into its mouth, up to 2/3 of its own body size. Marine life such as juvenile snapper, grouper, flounder and other common fish, mahi mahi, wahoo, jacks, tuna and game fish, octopus, sea horses, lobsters, crabs, cleaner fish and shrimp.

Where can I find Lionfish? Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region. This is the area between east Africa, north and east towards India, continuing eastwards towards Indonesia and the Philippines. The non-native regions are all along the eastern seaboard of the United States from as far North as Maine to the tip of florida (Key West), the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America down to South America and all islands in between. Recently, at the time this article is being written, lionfish have been reported in the Mediterranean.

What is the problem? That is a good question. In their native habitat, the species appears to be under control, at least from what we can tell. What we can’t tell is why? What keeps lionfish population in check in the Indo-pacific region while in the area mentioned just above, they are prolific. We do know that in their non-native regions, they have no natural predators. They are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequential impact is  the native food source and local economies. They are eating everything that comes within their range and there appears to be no natural predator, except man.

What do Lionfish Eat and How much do they eat? Lionfish are an ambush predator. They either work alone or in numbers. They consume as much as they can devour, expand their stomach by as much as 30 times their size. Subjects greater than 1/2 of the lionfish body length have been found within the stomachs. It has been witness by this author juvenile lionfish within the belly of larger lionfish. They are glutinous eaters. The question is what don’t lionfish eat?

You mentioned breading, what is their breading habits? Lionfish when spawning do so in pairs. The male and female will rise to shallow depth, where the female may release as many as 30,000 eggs, which are then fertilized by the male. The eggs have a protective mucus like coating and rise to the surface, where their gestation period lasts about 28 days, when the new born begin working their way back towards the bottom and begin feeding. Note, the female can produce up to 30,000 eggs every 3-4 DAYS. Imagine, 30,000 per female every 3-4 days where there are no known natural predators! We are in trouble.

Can I eat Lionfish? Absolutely. The white fleshy meat is wonderful. A common misconception is the lionfish is poisonous. Not true. Lionfish contain venom in the spines found around the body. There are no sacks of venom, and no poison in the fleshy portion. The spines along the top of the fish are called Dorsal Spines, all of these spines contain venom when introduced through puncture and can be quite painful. The second location where the spines along the bottom front are called the Pelvic fins. The front two spines, along the pelvic fins are venomous. Lastly, the set of spines known as the anal fin, the first three (closes to the front) are venomous.

What do I do if I am poked by a venomous spine? First, is don’t panic. If you are at depth diving, abort the dive and begin a normal ascent, making any obligation stops. Some have reported trying to squeeze and or suck on the point of penetration helps to remove some of the venom, hence the pain. Once on the boat, or if on shore, apply heat to the affected area. Apply as much heat as you can bear without burning yourself. The venom is protein based. Heat breaks down the protein, reducing the pain and swelling. Do not use cold packs! Signs and symptoms of being envenomed; immediate pain to the local area, followed by swelling. Rapid heart rate, dizziness, anxiety, exhaustion in my opinion are related to the psychological effect of fear and pain, ie adrenalin, etc. If taking anti inflammatory and pain relief does not help, consider seeking medical attention. There have been no known fatalities reported due to lionfish venom.

How do I acquire Lionfish for consumption? Lionfish are best harvested by pole spearing. Though there are reports of anglers hooking lionfish, this is rare. The best way is to check your local seafood markets, distributors and of course the best source, divers. Divers have shown to be the best method of managing lionfish harvesting and have harvested tens of thousands of lionfish to date. Find a diver and offer them a little $$. $1 to $1.50 a pound for whole and up to $3.5 per pound for fileted is not uncommon. Once they catch on they can make a few buck and provide them something to do while diving and help the environment, they may get hooked on the idea of harvesting.

Lionfish are high in omega-3 fatty acids.. The good stuff. In fact, lionfish are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than snapper and grouper, tilapia, mahi mahi, wahoo, Bluefin tuna and many other species making them a better fish to eat. They are also lower in heavy metals like tuna and other species. Click on this link for more nutritial information

How do I prepare Lionfish? Like you would any other fish. Fried, baked, steamed and my favorite, ceveche (raw marinated in lime juice. Find my Ceveche recipe at the end of this article)



Fresh whole tomotoes, Cilantro, Red Onion, White Pepper, Salt, Habanero, Fresh whole Limes and of course, fresh lionfish.

QTY may be adjusted per amount and taste. Recipe feeds about 4 people.

Lime: QTY will vary on size and amount of juice from each lime. Squeeze the juice from enough lime to cover and marinate the meat.The acid in the lime will cook the meat, turning it white, providing the fresh lime flavor required to make the dish superb.

2 cups Lionfish: Using boneless/skinless lionfish flesh, cut the meat into 1/4″ strips,

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Squeeze the juice from enough fresh lime to cover the lionfish meat and leave set for about 1 hour, stiring occasionally to make sure all the meat remained soaking in the lime.

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2 cups tomato: Cut the tomato in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds, leaving just the meat (You may peel the tomato if desired before cutting). Cut the tomato into approx 1/4″ x 1/4″ cubes. A rough cut is fine.

2 cups red onion: Cut into 1/4″ cubes, rough cut is fine.

1 Habanero: Cut at lease 1 Habanero into small pieces. Add more or less depending on your tolerance to heat. Ceveche is not hot, I just like the taste of the habenero. You may use Serrano or jalapeno, but use one or a combination for sure.

1 cup Cilantro: Chopped

After marinating the lionfish for an hour in lime, discard this lime. Using a fresh, clean, cold bowl (From the freezer) place the lionfish meat and add fresh squeezed lime juice, enough to cover about 1/2 of the fish, add the chopped ingredients above, Salt and pepper to taste.

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Using fresh tortilla chips, enjoy your new favorite healthy snack.

Are you a diver? Are you are interested in gaining hands on experience hunting, harvesting and would like to try fresh ceveche on your surface interval, consider joining Divetalking in Mexico this December 21 – 30, 2013. You will meet the professionals who hunt and harvest, have the opportunity to harvest and assist in the preparation of ceveche. You will also have the opportunity to photograph, film, fish and dive the cenotes.  Contact the Editor for more info if interested.

© 2013, admin. All rights reserved.

Written by

Founder and Master Moderator of Divetalking.

Filed under: Artificial Reefs, Conservation, Diver, Divetalking, Earth, Education, extinction, Featured, Fish, Lionfish, ocean, Preservation, Recognition, Reefs, Report, Training · Tags: , ,

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