It’s been a lot of fun to go out and shoot lionfish and eat them and tell ourselves we’re doing something good to keep back the invasion of the reef dwelling alien fish. But now people have to come and tell us–for our own good–that eating lionfish might be unhealthy! Very unhealthy. Ciguatera is a nasty disorder that you definitely do not want to get, and though I haven’t heard of any cases of ciguatera from people who’ve eaten lionfish, I have heard of cases from people who’ve eaten grouper taken from Florida reefs.
The University of Florida/IFAS St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension has received an update from Florida Sea Grant that shows that lionfish harvested in Florida’s waterways might contain toxins which cause ciguatera.The Sea Grant statement to Extension Agents says:
…the finding of the FDA is that ‘of 194 fish tested, 42 percent showed detectable levels of ciguatoxin and 26 percent were above the FDA’s illness threshold of 0.1 parts per billion.’
Despite the fact that NOAA has an ongoing program to teach people how to catch and cook lionfish, given this new information, under no circumstances should any person affiliated with Florida Sea Grant advocate consuming these fish, regardless of the location from which they are taken.
If someone tells you it is OK to eat lionfish, tell them that the latest FDA science indicates that there is a significant risk, and it is recommended that they DO NOT eat them.
If you know of anyone who has contracted ciguatera from eating lionfish shot in Florida waters, please drop me a line :