This year, the event will feature HempTown

Why are lionfish a threat?
The annual Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari will be held in Fort Pierce from June 7-9. At the 2018 event, 357 lionfish were caught. / Florida Food & Farm file photo

The annual Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari, whose goal is to harvest as many of the invasive fish as possible, will take place Friday through Sunday, June 7-9. (See full schedule below.)

This event provides an excellent opportunity for divers and anglers to help rid the ocean of some of these spiny, venomous fish. They breed quickly and have no known major natural predators, so their removal by humans is the only check on their population growth.

That’s why, in Florida, you can hunt lionfish — using any method, at any time of year, and without regard to their size or how many you catch.

Even if you don’t dive or fish, the Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari provides a wide variety of vendors, as well as recreational and culinary opportunities. The Safari is held at the scenic River Walk Center, 600 N. Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce, on the water.

New this year: HempTown

Once again, National Hemp History Weekend will be a part of the event. To celebrate the end of hemp prohibition, the Lionfish Safari will feature HempTown, with demonstrations, displays, exhibits and information on all things hemp-related. The Florida Cannabis Action Network — Florida CAN — will host HempTown.

The Fort Pierce Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, in the same scenic location as the Lionfish Safari. / Florida Food & Farm file photo

On Saturday, the Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers Market is held adjacent to the marina, also on the waterfront. The market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. Free parking is available behind City Hall, between Avenue A and Orange Avenue; and at the nearby Manatee and Community centers.

In addition, Lionfish Safari vendors will be set up in the boat-docking area at the Fort Pierce City Marina from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Lionfish not native to Florida or Caribbean

The red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have populated coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Their original introduction into the coastal waters of Southeast Florida in the mid-1980s is attributed to release of pet lionfish, according to www.treasurecoastlionfishsafari.com. Though colorful, lionfish have 18 venomous spines, and they consume and compete with native species, resulting in declines of reef fish.

Though venomous, lionfish are edible, tasty

Fortunately, lionfish meat has a mild taste and a light, flaky texture that can be eaten raw, as in ceviche; or cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéeing. Some restaurants serve it, and it has been available, prepared in various ways, at past Lionfish Safaris. This year, Chef Matt of the incubator Sunshine Kitchen will prepare lionfish in several ways for sampling.

Here, sautéed lionfish is served on a crisp taco chip. / Florida Food & Farm file photo

Lionfish Safari schedule, June 7-9

Friday

  • 5:30p.m. – Boat captains meet at Sailfish Brewery; a team party follows.

Saturday

  • Lionfish Safari – sunrise to 4 p.m.
  • 4 p.m. – Optional weigh-in for anyone who won’t be available on Sunday. Fish will be turned over to the Safari.
  • Event/vendors – noon to 7 p.m.

Sunday

  • Safari – sunrise to 4 p.m.
  • 4 p.m. – weigh-in
  • 5 p.m. – awards ceremony (over $2,000 in cash awards)
  • 6 p.m. – main raffle
  • Event/vendors – noon to 7 p.m.