The Lobster Pot and the Lobster Pot Dive Centre recently teamed up to find an innovative solution to reducing the population of invasive lion fish, which is growing at a rapid rate within Cayman’s waters. The first lionfish dinner took place last week, with around 80 lionfish caught for the dinner that fed over 30 people.
“It’s such a shame that we have to catch and kill these beautiful fish, but they do not belong here and they will reproduce at a rapid rate if we do not reduce numbers,” said Danny Kupkowski, from the Lobster Pot Dive Centre, who spearheaded the catch.
Once the fish were caught, chefs at the restaurant then expertly cut off the lionfish’s poisonous fins wearing protective gloves before preparing the meal. The resulting five-course dinner produced two lionfish courses – poached over a spinach flan on tarragon-infused Hollandaise and crispy pan seared over butter sautéed enoki mushrooms.
“We wanted to showcase the terrific flavour and texture of the lionfish by keeping the dishes relatively simple,” said Gunter Gosch, The Lobster Pot’s manager. “It’s a really tasty fish – sweet and light somewhat similar to freshwater fish.”
The issue is a pressing one as divers are seeing rapid expansion of numbers in Cayman’s waters.
“We had our first sighting of a lionfish around four years ago,” Danny confirmed. “A year ago we might see one every four dives. When we dived to catch the fish for this dinner, we caught 40 one day and 40 the next.”
Lionfish have no natural predator in the Caribbean and will reproduce rapidly, feasting on “everything and anything,” according to Mr. Kupkowski.
Interested persons who wish to catch lionfish may be able to obtain a licence from the Department of the Environment. The DoE is also able to provide workshops on the best way to catch lionfish.
“We really need the community’s involvement,” Mr. Kupkowski said. “We are managing to keep the numbers down on regular dive sites but the numbers accumulating off the beaten track are unbelievable.”
The dinner was held in conjunction with the Sokol Blosser winery from Oregon, brought in by Jacques Scott, with four of their wines paired alongside each course. Read more about the Lobster Pot’s Sokol Blosser lionfish dinner in the January edition of The Journal.