GULF OF MEXICO (WLOX) - It's considered one of the most aggressive invasive species and has no natural predators in the Gulf of Mexico. Lionfish are a nuisance in the Gulf, but they are also excellent table fare.
South Mississippi restaurateur Rob Stinson had to get special permission from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to serve the fish in his coast restaurants.
"Just to make this happen, I called directly through to the Department of Marine Resources. Jamie Miller was nice enough to entertain the idea," said Stinson. "They know the importance of getting rid of this fish."
Stinson, said he is serving the fish in his restaurants to gain feedback from consumers. He believes if restaurants can create a market for this nuisance species, we may be able to get rid of the lionfish problem once and for all.
Stinson stopped by the WLOX News Now studio Tuesday morning to bring us a sample of the fish. He compares the flavor to "the finest" grouper.
According to the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, aquarium owners introduced the lionfish to waters off southeast Florida in the 1980s. By 2010, the invasive species started appearing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the fish are now well established in the region.
Lionfish can wreak havoc on local fisheries, because they are known to eat native fish and crustaceans at an alarming rate, according to the GCLC.
They are also difficult to catch using traditional hook and line fishing methods, so many anglers spear fish to catch lionfish. Several states offer bounties for the invasive species.