Marathon Restauranteur Indicted for Environmental Violations

In a recent article sponsored by the Monroe County tourist development council, John Mirabella, owner of the off-the-beaten-path Castaways Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Marathon, is referred to as the “Lionfish King” of the Florida Keys.

But after a Monroe County grand jury reviewed the findings of a 17 month investigation he may soon be the “Lionfish King” of the Monroe County Correctional Facility. 

The findings include evidence that Mirabella, an honorary conch, celebrated conservationist and well-respected member of the  Marathon business community, most likely introduced the invasive lionfish that has been wreaking havoc in the Florida Keys since in 2002. 

In an official release by State Attorney’s office on April 1, 2023, the report states “After a prolonged investigation spanning two continents and three decades, we are confident our office’s findings will prove unequivocally that Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar owner John Mirablella released indigenous lionfish to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary with the sole intent of profiteering off the fishery.”

Marathon restaurateur John Mirabella has been charged with numerous state and federal crimes in relation to the illegal releasing of invasive Lionfish in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. 

Naval records indicate Mirabella served as a nuclear operator for Los Angles-class submarines from 1995-2001 including a stint in the Philippines as a dive officer for the USS Louisville.  Its believed he most likely discovered lionfish while performing a security check on the submarine and somehow smuggled them back to the US. 

The puff piece article goes on to state, “Mirabella is recognized throughout the universe of lionfish for spearfishing efforts to remove the voracious and wildly invasive non-native species from Keys waters,” 

According to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spokesman Lucas Conway, Mirabella now faces a litany of charges from numerous federal and state agencies for “crimes against the environment.”

“This guy has done more damage to the Florida Keys reef than Big Sugar, Big OIl and over-development combined,” Conway said. “Profiteers like him need to be held accountable for their crimes and he’ll be paying millions in fines and will likely be incarcerated for the remainder of his wretched life.”

The article paints Mirabella as an “affable natural storyteller that is known as a pioneering lionfish hunter and for the ways he cooks it up — “wreckdiver style” (cooked in white wine with lemon, capers, tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs), served as sushi or in a Benedict dish.People want lionfish,” 

Mirabella himself even boasts. “They’re coming to search for it. Some people actually plan their vacations around what they’re going to eat.”

The Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar is located at 1406 Oceanview Ave. For reservations, visit