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Learn to cook — and eat — lionfish at Texas State Aquarium

The invasion of the lionfish is believed to have begun when aquarium owners discarded them in local waters after the aggressive fish ate everything else in their tanks.

Be one of the first to learn to cook an invasive species at this month's Sensational Sustainable Seafood cooking program. The Texas State Aquarium hosts "Incredible Edible Lionfish!" from 7 to 10 p.m. April 15 in the Aquarium lobby.

Part of the cooking demonstration will feature a competition between local chefs from Tavern on the Bay and Doc's Seafood & Steak. Guest speaker Jorge Brenner of the Nature Conservancy will tell the story of how the lionfish made its way to the Gulf of Mexico and why it is such a threat.

Eat 'em up!

An exploding population of lionfish threatens both commercial and recreational fishing in the Coastal Bend — a threat that could affect tourism dollars.

A colorful aquarium fish, this particular species of scorpionfish has established a strong presence in the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, the first one was discovered this past summer, but they don't take long to multiply and take over. They begin breeding within a year of birth and can release up to 15,000 eggs every four days, all year long. More bad news: they live 10 to 18 years.

And they eat any- and everything, cutting into the supply of foraging fish that larger game fish depend on to survive. They eat shrimp, crab, octopus and even other lionfish, though not enough of those to make a difference.

The only way to get rid of them is to kill, kill, kill, say experts at a recent Coastal Issues Forum in Corpus Christi. Hopes are riding on developing a culinary market for the fish, which many report are good to eat. Several websites offer recipes for cooking lionfish. You can find recipes on the Lionfish Hunters website. even has a Lionfish cookbook

One problem with fishing them recreationally is that their coral spines cause a painful, but non-fatal sting when touched. (A lionfish sting should be treated with hot water for at least 30 minutes.) Once you've removed the spines, you'll find tasty, flakey white meat under the colorful skin. Taste it yourself at the "Incredible, Edible Lionfish" event!

Tickets, which are $20 for members and $25 for non-members, include chef tastings, appetizers, a flaming dessert from the Water's Edge Catering and an educational program. A cash bar, door prizes and silent auction are also available. Proceeds support education and control of lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Call 361-653-2654 or email for tickets.

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