Today I saw a really interesting video. You should watch it before you continue.
From the perspective of the person in the video and CNBC, Lionfish are bad for the environment, because they negatively impact native fish populations. This in turn impacts the coral reefs. Norman’s is helping by removing Lionfish from that ecosystem, commodifying it and encouraging people to consume it.
As you watched the video were you able to appreciate the noble sensibility of such a sustainable venture? Turn an invasive species into a resource. You save the ecosystem and turn a profit (even if the goal is not to make the most money possible.
Here are some issues I have with the video.
1: THe Exumas are a part of the Bahamas, which is not a US territory and The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is the oldest Marine and Terrestrial protected area in the world.
2: A Bahamian fishing license and an international seafood export license to take the Lionfish out of the country, do not seem practical in this case and from my research it does not seem as if he had either.
3: the transportation of 40 lbs of Lionfish out of the Bahamas into the USA and to the restaurant, is not sustainable on a small scale and because of the way Lionfish are caught and processed, not sustainable without a boutique style food experience, which not very one can provide.
4: he makes no mention of any Bahamian collaboration.
The sum impact in my opinion is negative. From a social perspective, impacting the sovereignty of the Bahamas, with no mention of the local and (Caribbean) regional efforts to eradicate the Lionfish, this is unsustainable. You are more likely to get pushback from local fishers who see a resource being stolen from a small Black Country, to enrich yet another foreigner. (Don’t kill the messenger, this is the sentiment in the Bahamas when a video like this does the rounds on the internet.)
From an economic perspective, paying the divers $5 a fish is definitely nice in the Florida panhandle, kudos. Again, the cost to risk for local Bahamians may be different. $100,000 in a year is also 8-10 times what most Bahamians make in a year. How can we scale this appropriately? How can we diversify this industry so it is not reliant on a single species fad?
Finally, environmentally, it’s awesome to teach people to eat invasive species as destructive as the Lionfish, but, right now climate change is as big an issue or bigger. Shipping Lionfish from a poor(er) country (or region within the USA) to the richer locations where the market is available, perpetuates a system of exploitation. And when the industry or species is unregulated or underregulated it also exposes other resources to excessive exploitation. The Bahamas cannot afford this socially, Economically or Environmentally the way it was presented.
Ancilleno Davis, M.Sc