Lionfish may be a threat to the marine ecosystem but they make a delectable dish. And the Hyatt Regency Curaçao Golf Resort, Spa & Marina is doing its part to help control the invasive species by hunting, cooking and serving up the tasty fish that is wreaking havoc on the island’s coral reefs.
Through his innovative culinary imagination, award-winning Chef Norbert Roesch has turned these marine pests into edible masterpieces. Guests at the luxury hotel in Willemstad can choose among grilled lionfish, stuffed lionfish with crab meat, lionfish ceviche and seared lionfish.
Pterois, commonly known as lionfish, is a genus of venomous marine fish found mostly in the Indo-Pacific. It’s characterised by red, white and black bands, showy pectoral fins and venomous spiky fin rays. Just about two years ago, the Institute of Marine Affairs placed the population on alert to the impending appearance of the lionfish in T&T. And earlier this year, a diver claimed he spotted one in Tobago waters.
Online reports state that lionfish are capable of permanently impacting native reef fish communities across multiple trophic levels (position in the food chain). They occupy the same trophic position as economically important species such as snapper and grouper and may hamper stock rebuilding efforts and coral reef conservation measures.
Report says lionfish invasion could result in socio-economic implications
An article submitted by Richard Waite in August last year said in the Caribbean more than 75 per cent of coral reefs were already threatened by a combination of overfishing, pollution from land and sea, and coastal development. He said overfishing, the most pervasive threat to Caribbean reefs, had already devastated populations of many large predators such as groupers and snappers.
On some reefs even herbivorous fish populations have been greatly reduced, Waite’s article said. As populations of herbivorous fish have declined, the health of coral reefs has been negatively impacted by the growth of algae on the reefs. Other threats, including disease, hurricanes and coral bleaching, further add to the pressure on the region’s coral reefs.
Waite said an unchecked lionfish invasion, on top of these threats, could possibly lead to irreversible changes to Caribbean reef ecosystems, including further reductions in forage (prey) fish species, competition with predator fish species, and increased algal growth and degradation of reefs due to the reduction in herbivorous fish.
He stated, “In a region where more than 42 million people are very dependent on coral reefs for food and livelihoods, the lionfish invasion could have serious socio-economic implications. “Commercial and subsistence fisheries may suffer losses as lionfish either prey on economically important species (such as snapper and grouper) or compete with those species for food. “Lionfish could even impact the Caribbean’s $2.1 billion dive tourism industry, as they have the potential to greatly reduce the diversity of the reef ecosystem.”
Hyatt Curaçao doing its part
In an effort to end the destruction of Curaçao’s beloved coral reefs, Chef Roesch is now offering lionfish specials at SHOR American Seafood Grill, the resort’s fresh seafood restaurant which overlooks the Caribbean Sea. When asked last week what was his favourite way to prepare the fish, Roesch said, “I like the entire fish grilled from our open-fire hardwood grill, served over grilled asparagus with warm fennel and seasonal greens salad, the plate painted with herb oil and horseradish couli.”
Each dish costs about US$25, he said. Roesch said guests were positively surprised about the nice, light texture of the fish and the great flavour and after learning about the reason why the hotel serves lionfish, they were even more excited to be part of the solution by helping to save the coral reefs and increase tourism in Curaçao.
“We are pleased to announce that we are doing our part in controlling the lionfish population, saving our coral reefs and protecting our guests. “Not only do our guests enjoy the flavours of the light and flakey white fish, they are enthused about the initiative and thrilled to be part of the solution,” Roesch said.
Roesch has more than 25 years of culinary arts experience throughout the US, Canada and Germany. Last week, a press statement on behalf of the hotel said due to lionfish being highly unattractive to sharks and larger predators, the lionfish population surrounding Curaçao has recently boomed allowing the feisty fish to gobble up vast amounts of young fish and pose a significant threat to the island’s coral reefs.”
Lionfish have venomous spines that can sting swimmers, but when cooked it is denatured. Chef Roesch is also stimulating the local economy by buying the caught lionfish from local divers twice a week. The lionfish initiative goes hand-in-hand with Hyatt’s industry-leading philosophy: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.”
In March this year, the Gleaner reported that Jamaica was also doing its part to combat the lionfish population. The Scotia Group partnered with the Centre for Marine Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona; Rainforest Seafoods, the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries “to turn the tables on the lionfish” which has been wreaking havoc on Jamaica’s fish stock.