Florida has a big problem with invasive species, and the idea of chowing down on the pests has been gaining in popularity. So far, there’s a cookbook dedicated to lionfish, an invasive species cooking contest and even an invasive species sampler tent at The Grassroots Festival on Virginia Key this past February.
As Lanette Sobel with the Fertile Earth Foundation said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em.”
Unfortunately, that tactic, however appetizing, is probably not enough to outpace the invaders wreaking havoc on Florida’s ecosystem.
For example, a University of Florida study found that over the last century and a half, more than 130 non-native amphibians and reptiles have been introduced into the state.
To get a sense of just how bad this is: Of the roughly 60 species of lizards you see running around in Florida only 16 are local.
Kenneth Krysko, the report’s head author, calls Florida a cesspool for introduced species. He said the state has a bigger problem than any other place in the world.
“It’s more than true, it gets worse and worse each year,” said Krysko.
What is it exactly that makes Florida so attractive to all these foreign critters?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cites two main reasons: The state's climate and the fact that Florida is a major transportation hub with lots of people and goods passing through its seaports and airports.
The sobering reality is that not only do invasive species negatively impact the state’s native flora and fauna, they also cost us a lot of money.
The National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission estimate that Floridians spends over $500 million dollars a year trying to control invasive species.
Trina Sargalski contributed to this report.
Editor's note: In the hunt for what to do about the various mix of invasive species found in Florida, we are running a series that not only describes the problems caused by these plants and animals but, well, offers a culinary solution. Tweet us (@WLRN) your ideas and tips or email us a recipe: WLRNMIA@gmail.com.