For the past several years, I have been involved in helping to develop markets for lionfish jewelry as a way of addressing the threat posed by this invasive species, which is severely compromising the health of coral reefs throughout the Caribbean by eating reef-dwelling fish. Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the region, and its lobster and conch fisheries could really benefit from a break of overexploitation, so encouraging lionfish fishing in any way possible will promote reef recovery.
My last post, in fact, was about my trip to northern Belize last summer, when I collaborated with two local NGOs in Belize to train women from a coastal community on how to create lionfish jewelry. This August, I will again be joining one of these groups – Blue Ventures, for a lionfish jewelry workshop for women from other areas. As you can see from the pictures here and in my previous posts, lionfish fins, tails, and spines are beautiful; they’re also relatively low-cost to transform into jewelry. These parts of lionfish were previously discarded, but when kept and transormed into jewelry the value of landed lionfish catch increases by up to 40%, creating additional incentives for fishers to target and remove lionfish from the Western Atlantic.
Ultimately, we hope to create a women’s cooperative and brand for sales in high-end resorts and online to access larger and more lucrative markets. We are also exploring the feasibility of feeding into an existing ethical jewelry brand such as 10,000 Villages. But while there is very strong interest in the workshop, which is supported by the WWF Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program, Blue Ventures only has funding to support ten participants. A student group from Colorado State University visiting Belize has become interested in this project and they have set up a crowdfunding campaign to make it possible to provide the training opportunity to more women from Belize and possibly from neighboring countries, depending on the amount raised.
Please check out the campaign page (here’s the link again) and consider donating – it only costs $500 to fully fund one woman’s participation. With this funding they receive training, jewelry making tools and supplies, and a starter set of fins and tails. Every little bit helps. Even if you aren’t able to donate, it would be wonderful if you could help to share this campaign – the more funding received, the more women can join the workshop!