As lionfish invade coral reef systems in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, one Florida fisherman decides to bring them from the oceans to our tables.
After years of seeing first-hand how lionfish have impacted coral reef systems, Joe Glass founded Reefsavers, a non-profit organization focused on creating a centralized marketplace to streamline the acquisition and distribution of lionfish for consumers. Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, commercial fishers and other non-profit organizations, ReefSavers has launched a food tour throughout Florida featuring lionfish as the main ingredient.
To aid in their research, Reefsavers.org has launched a GoFundme campaign to help raise fund for a new research vessel. The vessel is a 1983 Morgan 60 schooner. The immediate plan is to repower the vessel with an electric motor and install a completely renewable power system consisting of Solar Panels, Solar Glass, Solar Sails, Solar Decking and wind generators. While the vessel is undergoing the refit, Reefsavers.org plan to take the vessel around the state and it will be used as the primary base of operation for the Lionfish Awareness Tour.
After the yearlong Lionfish Awareness Tour and the vessel, refits are completed Reefsavers.org will take the GREEN Powered vessel through the Caribbean to South America, around the coast to Mexico finally rounding out the Gulf back to Florida. During this trip Reefsavers.org with be offering space to students studying the impact of the lionfish invasion to join the trip and conduct valuable study related research. Teaming up with other non-profit organizations and local co-op fisheries throughout the research trip Reefsavers.org will be conducting land-based research geared toward commercialization of the lionfish in the local economies in an effort to help remove more lionfish from the waters and help control the populations.
Lionfish Invasion Tour will be visiting different Florida cities and putting this fish into the kitchens of your favorite local restaurants. The tour kicked off on October 1, 2016, with a soft launch and 14 patriating Gainesville restaurants creating cuisines ranging from Dentice Napoli and Lionfish Sushi to Southern Stuffed Lionfish as well as several other decadent dishes. Restaurants involved include Taste, The Top, Dragonfly and Amelia’s, just to name a few. Chefs are getting creative with making this mild-tasting, white flaky fish appealing to customers to create awareness and improve conservation efforts. After the successful completion of the first stop in Gainesville, the tour's next stop will be in St Augustine FL in April 2017.
Since the kickoff of the Lionfish Awareness Tour in October Reefsavers.org cash4lionfish.com program has been responsible for removal of nearly 10,000 lbs. of lionfish per month. With the majority of the lionfish being removed just off the Florida coast.
“We are working on efficient methods to remove invasive lionfish from oceans since the only way currently to catch them is through spearing and nets. Incorporating lionfish into the seafood marketplace makes the most sense because they are great fish to eat,” explains Joe Glass. The Lionfish Invasion Tour is a fundraising event and proceeds will go towards the conservation efforts of Reefsavers as well as maintaining healthier levels of lionfish in open waters. Reefsavers.org is also currently working with other groups and organizations to help bring new innovative methods of removing lionfish to our waters such as traps designed to target lionfish as well as remotely operated submersibles that are designed to remove lionfish.
To make lionfish readily available to everyone, Reefsavers.org has begun to offer lionfish through their online store Click Here to View. You will be able to order fresh lionfish fillets or whole lionfish to be delivered directly to your doorstep.
Reefsavers will also be running a social media campaign for food enthusiasts to take a photo of their dish and tag @reefsavers or #LionfishTour for a chance to win $500. Cities to follow in the Lionfish Invasion Tour include St. Augustine, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami.
ReefSavers was founded to help in the effort to gain control of the Lionfish population in the southeast US and the Caribbean. We look to achieve this by not only going out and harvesting Lionfish but also developing a stable market in which supply can always meet the current demands. In the research we have done we have come to the conclusion that there is a current market for Lionfish that individual fishermen cannot effectively match. The nature in which Lionfish are currently harvested (SCUBA and spear) limits the number of fishermen that are able to harvest these fish that have taken over the reefs in the southeast US and the Caribbean. The current demand for these delicious fish is at a standstill, for the fact that a single fisherman or team cannot keep up with demand