The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is encouraging people to eat bullfrog for dinner. While bullfrogs are native to the eastern United States, they are an invasive species in the west. Because of the bullfrog’s effect on native ecosystems, officials are encouraging folks to develop a taste for frog legs as a means of decreasing the bullfrog population. Utah’s bullfrog strategy mirrors Florida’s response to the spread of lionfish.
Bullfrogs were originally introduced in the western United States for food, but they have since spread like wildfire with devastating consequences. Bullfrogs eat just about anything, out-competing or outright eating native species. Additionally, they lay huge quantities of eggs which aids in their rapid spread. Bullfrogs are also immune to the chytrid fungus. The chytrid fungus is one of many threats causing the sharp decline of most amphibian species.
Utah does not require a permit to hunt bullfrogs; however, fishing equipment is used to snare the invasive amphibians so it is a good idea to purchase a fishing licence before going frogging. It is also illegal to transport live bullfrogs. Throwing bullfrog parts back into bodies of water can aid the spread of the chytrid fungus, further harming other native amphibians. Bullfrog is said to taste kind of like fish and kind of like chicken and is often prepared like chicken wings.
While Utah is suggesting bullfrog for dinner, Florida’s FWC is trying to put lionfish on the menu. Originally an aquarium pet, lionfish have no native predators and have quickly made their way to the top of the food chain along the Atlantic coastline. The FWC hosts lionfish derbies, with cash prizes as high as $5,000 for the team that catches the most lionfish.
Florida boasts over 20 restaurants with lionfish on the menu. Since lionfish cannot be caught using conventional commercial fishing methods, most restaurants source their lionfish from local divers and lobster men who often find the invasive fish in their lobster traps. Skilled chefs transform the fish into something akin to the fish version of a cross between lobster and shrimp. Eaten as sashimi, in ceviche, and of course, pan-fried in butter, people everywhere are hearkening to the conservation phrase, “Eat ‘em to beat ‘em!”