Want to do this yourself? Talk to Brady Hale at Ocean Strike Team, and tell him Ian sent you:
Lionfish are a scourge on reef habitats in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico from the eastern coast of South American as far north as New York. They are a species native to the Indian Ocean and Polynesia, and in their native habitat they have competition and predators, and exist as a balanced part of the ecosystem. In American waters, they have no natural predators at all, and their voracious appetites and rapid reproduction rate have caused them to multiply exponentially since they were first released off the Florida coast in the 1980s. One of the key strategies that has been successful in starting to control their population has been hunting by human recreational and commercial divers.
Fortunately, lionfish are in fact delicious eating. They give a flaky, white meat that is quite mild in flavor, with no “fishiness” at all. Whether battered and fried, grilled for fish tacos, or prepared as traditional sashimi, they make a fantastic meal. And so, when I wanted to do another “Field to Table” type video with a different feel from last year’s Texas hog hunt, lionfish were a perfect prey. I should note that while lionfish do have 13 venomous spines, they are neither potentially fatal nor do they carry any risk form eating at all. Like a rattlesnake, the spines must break the skin to inflict injury. If you are stung, the venom is very painful, but not life-threatening (with the caveat that diving is inherently dangerous, and getting stung underwater presents a great opportunity to do something stupid the will kill you).
Working with Brady, Adam, and Captain Andy, we spent several days on Pensacola Bay learning how to use the pole spear and Zookeeper to effectively kill and safely handle the lionfish. We dove on a variety of artificial reef structures at 80-100 feet, and harvested more than one hundred of these beautiful invaders between us. We brought the catch to Chef Wayan at Sake Cafe, and he prepared three wonderful different dishes for us.
A couple notes:
1) I recorded a really good interview with Captain Andy, who helps run annual Lionfish Derbies and is a great resource, but there was enough wind noise to make it unusable. I regret not being able to give him more exposure in the video.
2) The audio in general was a major challenge, between the noisy restaurant and not wanting to risk my good camera gear on the boat. I apologize for this shortcoming.
3) For those interested, we were using 32% Nitrox, with dives reaching a maximum of 102 ft. Filming was done with a GoPro Hero 6 and an iPhone 7 Plus in a Sealife camera case. This was our first time using the iPhone/Sealife rig, and it worked very well – but we need a good light rig to go with it, and we need to experiment with color correcting filters.
4) This is a continuing part of my long-term plan to produce video on specialty underwater firearms – so if you know someone with access to an H&K P11 or the like, please ask them to contact me… 😉