iSea Pick The Alien Species Project
Lionfish or grouper?
How eating marine invasive species can help safeguard our seas
The project “Pick the Alien” continues for the third year evolving and expanding its actions with the aim of promoting responsible seafood consumption by establishing edible marine alien species in our diet!
The ecosystems and biodiversity of the Mediterranean are threatened by the invasion of marine alien species that have spread with the contribution of human activities, like maritime traffic, opening of artificial canals and aquaculture activities. About 1,000 alien species have entered the Mediterranean and more than 300 have been recorded in Greece. Some of them are invasive and compete with the native for resources and habitats causing significant ecological damage. Their effects extend beyond the marine environment and have a strong impact on the economy, mainly in the fisheries sector, but also on human health.
Responsible consumption of fish and seafood through the replacement of native species, and especially apex predators, like groupers, greater amberjacks and swordfish, with edible alien species is a measure to mitigate the pressure exerted on the marine ecosystems of Greece.
We can all contribute to the solution!
The aim of the campaign is to create a strong alliance between all the relevant parties, such as fishers, fishmongers, restaurants and consumers, and elevate the gustatory and commercial value of edible alien species, in order to enter the food chain and ultimately the dishes of consumers resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits.
To achieve this goal the project will include multiple actions in different areas of Greece.
The following will be implemented:
Gastronomic and informative events aiming at raising public awareness for the effects of marine alien species, but also giving the opportunity to taste the marine invaders of Greece.
Pilot use of fishing gear specifically designed for lionfish (Pterois miles) trapping with the aim to catch this fish in a more selective and sustainable way.
Competitions aiming at the removal of alien species from marine protected areas with the valuable participation of recreational fishermen.
Promoting Citizens’ Science program through data recording in the group “Is it Alien to you… Share it!!!” and collecting samples from citizens.
Online closing event of the project during which the participants will have delivered cooked edible alien species, in order to share their impressions.
In recent decades, marine ecosystems have been disrupted due to direct or indirect human activities, such as the exploitation of marine ecosystems, overfishing of commercial species, opening of channels for the acceleration of trade, etc. with the Mediterranean basin being one of the most affected areas worldwide. The program will act as a stepping-stone for the creation of an alliance that will bring fishermen, restaurants and consumers closer together in order to meet the challenges that our sea face.
The project is implemented by iSea with the support and cooperation of Blue Marine Foundation, Ionian Environment Foundation, Argolic Environment Foundation and Cyclades Preservation Fund.
In the Ionian Region between February and May 2022 informative and gastronomy events were implemented on the islands of Corfu, Paxoi, Zakynthos and Kefalonia and informative seminars will also planned to include the islands of Lefkas and Ithaka. All the actions are framed by a communication campaign and the creation of informative materials.
This year creative ideas on how to uplift the value of invasive alien species, familiarise the public with such species in order to increase their demand, but also ideas for addressing issues that arise during the efforts of promoting their consumption were thoroughly discussed during the informative events. In addition, apart from the presentation, project materials were distributed among the public according to their profession and needs, i.e. posters with the existing invasive alien species in each area for the fishers and recipes of invasive alien species for the chefs, for instance.
During the gastronomy events, the participants were informed about alien species, with emphasis on the species prepared for the occasion. iSea representatives were also asking the participants’ opinion and reactions on the tasting value of the recipes and alien species, as a feedback for the chance of introducing them in their diet. An impressions book was available during the events where participants could write down their opinion on the initiative and what they have tasted. In addition, material created in the context of the project like more recipes on the species prepared for the occasion was distributed among the attendees.
Additionally, through the collection of questionnaires to fishers in all the areas, the interactions between non-indigenous species and the fishing sector will be studied and further understood.
Finally, a technical report will be produced, identifying all the types of key stakeholders in national, regional and local scale and providing insights on how edible invasive species can successfully enter the Greek market.