Can eating exotic species help protect our ecosystem?

Invasive exotic species can be more than just unwelcome guests – they can also be a source of food. Eating exotic species like the venomous lion fish might seem a bit extreme, but it also may just be the key to protecting the oceanic ecosystem.

TRANSCRIPT

Invasive exotic species can be more than just unwelcome guests.

They can also be a source of food.

Eating exotic species like the venomous lionfish might seem a bit extreme, but it also may just be the key to protecting the oceanic ecosystem.

Here's a look.

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These cockroaches are welcome in my kitchen any time.

And I hope that other kitchens will open their doors to them, also.

I've been called a number of things, from an exotic food chef, alternative food designer.

When we talk about alternative and exotic in America, it's something that is out of the normal diet for most people.

It may not be exotic to a person coming from that country.

Exotic species are species that are living where they are not native.

Some of them live there kind of subtly at low population levels, and some of them explode and go crazy and take over.

If they explode and go crazy, they're called invasive species.

At the Safina Center, we're trying to get people to have a closer relationship with the natural world.

We analyze how fish are caught or otherwise get to your plate.

That's how work with Explorers Club.

The Explorers Club is a very unusual organization.

This group of individuals has left a mark to improve society through scientific exploration.

Back to Shackleton's days and Parry's days, when explorers came back and had the Explorers Club annual dinner, they came back to show others what they had found.

We're dealing with the oceans this year.

So the idea behind taking some invasives out, try a new food source, you'll be shocked.

It's gonna be delicious.

I can't think of a single fish that is a worse problem now than lionfish off the east coast of the United States.

I see them here immediately.

They have escaped from aquariums.

Whatever keeps them in check in their native range is missing, and they could easily eat two dozen fish in a meal.

And because they're venomous, many fish would avoid attacking them.

Our lionfish are gonna be a challenge for us.

It's the spine which is the venomous portion.

We'll have needle-stick-proof gloves.

We're gonna give them enough temperature that it will neutralize the quill.

The filets that we use, if we need to, will be most likely broiled and then glazed with a light spice.

Another one of our selections is another invasive, is an Asian carp.

Asian carp are in some of our rivers in the midwest, and they -- Again, that's another fish that is in plague proportions in rivers, and they occupy a lot of the water.

They eat a lot of what's there.

They outcompete native fish for food and for space.

We've never tried this before.

My goal is to do sashimi first to get this myth that all carp is an earthy aftertaste type fish.

This carp is absolutely high sashimi quality.

I usually try to go with the two out of three concept.

If I give you two items you're familiar with, I hope you'll trust me on the third.

The whole idea of these dinners is to educate, trigger your adventurous spirit.

If we could educate people into trying other types of fish products, it would put less pressure on those fish that are in such dire straits now.

This is lionfish.

Lionfish!

I was saying that they would have that here.

It's not bad, actually.

Lionfish is great.

Have you tried one of these?

One of the things about eating invasive species is that we're not used to eating them.

That's probably the main impediment.

What else you got here?

Oh, my God.

Are you kidding?

Lionfish, iguana, feral hog, feral goat, all the insects are in one of those, Asian carp, catfish, python.

We got them all.

Mmm!

It smells good.

I got to go get some iguana.

Yeah, let's do that.

I think it will be a little bit of chicken, a little grassy.

Very crunchy and squishy on the inside.

It's better than I expected.

People have to get comfortable with the idea that that is good food to eat.

Because we have so depleted so many of the fish populations of the world, and with 7 billion people and climbing, our pressure is just increasing and increasing, so we're either going to completely demolish the ocean or we're gonna try to do some things a little bit better.

How was it?

I think it was spicy.

Spicy?