Does lionfish jewelry make a difference?
On a recent trip to Placencia, Belize to hunt lionfish and enjoy a relaxing vacation, I was approached by a local expat while eating breakfast who had noticed my lionfish t-shirt. “Do you think the lionfish jewelry actually makes a difference when it comes to controlling the lionfish population?” he asked. It was a relevant question because just the day before we had visited the ‘Treasure Box’ a lionfish jewelry store in Placencia Village run by a talented artisan Kaj. My answer was a definite “Yes” as I’ll explain below.
Lionfish jewelry plays an important role in controlling the invasive lionfish for several reasons.
The most significant way in which lionfish jewelry plays a role in the fight against invasive lionfish is its ability to raise awareness of the issue. The very reason I was being asked about the significance of lionfish jewelry is that this person, like all the locals in Placencia, was familiar with Kaj’s lionfish jewelry store in town and had seen her work. As a result, they understand that lionfish are a problem and an invasive species that are causing harm to the extremely valuable barrier reef just offshore. All over the Caribbean locals understand the value that their reef and marine life hold when it comes to competition over visiting tourists. It’s obvious to most that the healthier the reef, the more tourists and more dollars that flow into a community.
Lionfish jewelry is a natural conversation starter.
The same natural beauty that makes the lionfish such a popular aquarium pet (ultimately leading to the releases that caused the invasion) also makes for beautiful jewelry. There is something striking about the red, white and black camouflage pattern of the tail fin, combined with the translucent spines that lend themselves to alluring jewelry. A person unfamiliar with the lionfish will naturally ask “what is that earring (or necklace, or bracelet) made from?” leading to an easy discussion of how the lionfish is invasive and a problem on our reefs, as well as a delicious and fun to hunt fish. Every time you wear your lionfish jewelry you’ll have opportunities to educate people about the lionfish issue!
Lionfish jewelry also creates an alternative market for the lionfish.
We’ve made great advances in building a sustainable market for lionfish fillets, and in some places demand is even beginning to outpace supply for the delicate white flaky meat. By turning the otherwise useless tail fins into jewelry the skilled artisans creating the lionfish jewelry are adding additional motivation to the divers who are heading underwater to cull lionfish from the reef. History is rife with examples of humans wiping out whole species simply to adorn ourselves. By the late 19th century plume hunters had nearly wiped out the snowy egret populations in the United States, so if we can apply the same fervor to wearing lionfish that we once had for bird feathers in our hats we may make a real dent in the lionfish population.
Lionfish jewelry allows non-divers to make a difference.
By purchasing lionfish jewelry, you are helping to employ an artist, add value to a removed lionfish, and start conversations about the importance of removing the invasive lionfish. All without having to put on a wetsuit! So check out these unique lionfish jewelry pieces and help save the reef by wearing lionfish jewelry!
EDIT: Excellent comment by Phil Karp: “Great post. Just to add some data to reinforce your excellent points, a study done by several colleagues and I looked at the value added impact of lionfish jewelry in Belize, the Bahamas, Grenada and the Grenadines. We found that based on prevailing sellling price for lionfish meat in each market and prices being paid for fins and spines, the increase in valu per fish ranged fro 28 to 43 percent. We also found that production of lionfish jewelry is having positive impact on income and self-esteem of women in coastal communities.
Wear’em to Beat’em!”
Please check out some of our favorite lionfish jewelry links: