"I DON'T KNOW HOW A FISH THAT SMALL EATS SO MANY SHRIMP.”
A short video about lionfish left a lasting impression at an international film festival recently and gave a St. Petersburg teen a brief closeup in the eco-doc spotlight with “Racing Extinction” director Louie Psihoyos.
Preston Buchanan, a 2015 graduate of the Canterbury School of Florida, won best student film at the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit in Monaco for “The Lionfish Plague of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf.”
“Blue Ocean’s mission is to promote awareness and to spread knowledge of the oceans,” Buchanan said. “I hope with the video I made I was able to impact other people’s awareness of the invasion of lionfish in the Western Hemisphere.”
And after face-to-face experiences, Buchanan said, “I don’t think it will be possible to ever get rid of them.”
Marine scientists and wildlife officials agree. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started a Lionfish Control Team in 2013 to help the state contend with an invasion that imperils coral marine life across the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Atlantic.
“They’re much more widespread than I previously thought,” Buchanan said from Emory University, where he is a freshman in pre-med. “They’re here forever now. They breed so rapidly and eat so much that it’s likely they’re here forever.”
Buchanan and Canterbury’s Venturing Crew 210 combined to record roughly three hours of video to shape "Lionfish Plague" into" a six-minute burst of information.” The action takes place in mostly 80-foot deep waters off Roatan, a Honduran island and a popular dive destination.
Roatan is guarded by the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean. The crew hunted and studied lionfish with marine stewards during an eight-day stay, Buchanan said. Dissections were involved to reveal what the lionfish were eating.
“Another thing that surprised me is they’re so small,” said Buchanan, a St. Pete resident since age 6. “And they eat so much fish. I don’t know how a fish that small eats so many guppies and shrimp.”
The Blue Ocean winners were honored Nov. 9 at an awards gala that included Prince Albert II of Monaco. “Racing Extinction,” the new eco-heartbreaker from Psihoyos, won best of festival.
“It is so encouraging that students like Preston are submitting these good films,” said Debbie Kinder, founder of the Blue Ocean Film Festival, which returns to St. Petersburg next year.
Kinder said in an email that "Lionfish Plague" is "an example of the democratization" of the worldwide ocean stewardship movement.
“Racing Extinction” made a global splash Wednesday on Discovery Channel. Similar to his Oscar-winning thriller “The Cove,” Psihoyos uses undercover work to expose grim human threats against endangered species.
Buchanan said he didn’t get a chance to talk to Psihoyos. But they shared a stage. “They had the VIPs kind of tucked away,” Buchanan said.
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