Lionfish Leather

A lionfish caught off Venezuela, where the authorities organise sport fishing competitions to curb the dangerous proliferation of the invasive species. Photograph: Yuri Cortéz/AFP/Getty

Lionfish came to our attention in a series of posts starting in 2014. That year we came to see that fighting this invasive species would require innovative entrepreneurial conservation methods. We published more posts and series about initiatives in the years since then, but the problem continued to grow. For some reason the stories about initiatives started fading from our attention and then stopped with a post in 2018. Now, 22 posts since the first post and four years since the last one, lionfish are back in our thoughts thanks to Inversa’s innovation:

Lionfish leather. Inversa says it is helping to solve an environmental crisis by using an invasive species that eats lots of other fish but has no predators in much of its range. Photograph: Inversa

Fish leather is here, it’s sustainable – and it’s made from invasive species to boot

An avid diver saw how lionfish have devastated populations of Florida’s native tropical fish and resolved to help solve the problem

Aarav Chavda has been diving off the coast of Florida for years. Each time he became increasingly depressed by the ever-growing void, as colourful species of fish and coral reefs continued to disappear.

A significant reason for that disappearance is the lionfish, an invasive species that has boomed in Atlantic waters from Florida to the Caribbean in recent decades, and in numerous other places from Brazil and Mexico to the Mediterranean.

Lionfish have no natural predators outside their native range – in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Red Sea – and are all-consuming, devouring an estimated 79% of young marine life within five weeks of entering a coral reef system. “You can see the impacts on the reefs when you dive now – it’s less vibrant, it’s less cacophonous,” Chavda said.

“We know there are solutions for some of the problems – such as coral-friendly sunscreens to help protect the reefs – but nobody’s been able to do anything about the lionfish.”

So Chavda and a team of ecologically aware fellow scuba enthusiasts decided to act by establishing Inversa, which turns lionfish into a new product: fish leather. On Wednesday, World Oceans Day, the team was recognised as one of nine finalists in the Global Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge (Oric).

Chavda, 27, and his childhood friend from Texas, Roland Salatino, set up the Florida-based company to make the leather. They process the fish hides by tanning them with drying agents and dye them before selling the leather to partner companies to fashion into high-end products including wallets, belts and handbags. Fish skin is thin but because the fibre structure runs crossways, it is stronger than many other types of leather…

Read the whole article here.

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