Invasive lionfish added to menus in Turkey for consumption

Invasive lionfish added to menus in Turkey for consumption

Invasive lionfish added to menus in Turkey for consumption

Experts have encouraged the consumption of lionfish to control the spread of this invasive species in the seas in Turkey, saying that the fish have already been added to restaurants’ menus and are being sold in big cities’ fish markets.

“For now, we are only selling fried lionfish. Maybe later, we will add lionfish soup or stew on menus,” a business owner told daily Milliyet on Nov. 21.

Lionfish is one of the 100 invasive species that entered the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal and became a threat to the marine ecosystems of Turkish shores, decreasing other fish species’ populations.

“This fish with poisonous fin rays mostly emerge at Turkey’s southern shores, between Bodrum and Antalya,” said Zafer Kızılkaya, the head of the Mediterranean Protection Society.

As the local fish species are under big threat, according to Kızılkaya, the best way to stop and control of the spread of this invasive species is to encourage their consumption.

“Some chefs start using lionfish on meals, but it not enough. We have to place this species on every fish market or restaurant from [the western province of] İzmir to [the southern province of] Hatay,” he noted.

Calling the consumption of the lionfish as a “social responsibility,” the expert highlighted that it would also open a news business sector.

“The Central American country Belize monetizes around $10 million annually from the lionfish consumption,” he added.

Murat Draman, the head of the Dragoman Diving School, is one of a business owners in the Kaş district of Antalya who serves lionfish to costumers. “The fish’s meat is tasty and edible. The surrounding restaurants followed us after we started serving lionfish in our restaurant,” he said.

The crux is “picking the fin rays without harming your hands before serving.”

A kilo of lionfish is on sale for 40 Turkish Liras ($3.5) in the main fish market of the capital Ankara.

“We offered the fish to public in Ankara. So far, we have had no negative replies,” said Ramazan Özkaya, the head of the Aquaculture Cooperative Unions of Turkey.

The campaign to consume lionfish began in 2010 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA called the lionfish a “delicious, delicately flavored fish” similar in texture to the grouper amid the “Lionfish as Food” campaign.

Cooking techniques and preparations for lionfish include deep-frying, ceviche, jerky, grilling, and sashimi.