Cayman Islanders urged to eat venomous fish invader

A red lionfish swims in an aquarium
Image caption The red lionfish is not native to the Caribbean

People in the Caribbean are being urged to eat a venomous fish that has invaded local waters, it appears.

Conservationists say that the red lionfish threatens the marine ecosystem in the region because of their voracious appetite for smaller fish that are a vital link in the food chain, local reports say. The only viable alternative is that divers and fisherman keep killing and eating them because traditional predators such as sharks don't see the incomer as prey. It seems that attempts to "teach" predators to attack lionfish by feeding them speared carcases have resulted in unintended consequences, with moray eels around the Cayman Islands now associating divers with food.

The red lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region, and found its way into other waters through the trade in exotic fish for aquariums. Its venomous spines act as a highly effective deterrent to predators, and will deal a painful - but not fatal - blow to humans who get too close. Some think that, once the spines are removed, eating them is the only way ahead: "It's a great eating fish," one marine conservationist says.

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