South Florida eco-preneurs ready to spring trap on lionfish

August 3, 2015 3:00 pm

A new trap that targets lionfish and is also a potential moneymaker for fishermen and restaurants joined Mote Marine Aquarium on a short list for a lucrative eco grant in the inaugural Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge, organizers said.

The finalists, including four with Mote connections, will each receive $25,000 to produce prototypes. A winner will be chosen by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation in November and receive as much as $375,000 for development.


Fresh lionfish filets are rarely seen in supermarkets but that could change. (Daily Fray photo)

“These five proposals all have potential to transform a segment of our region’s Blue Economy,” said Mark Pritchett, a foundation vice president.  “Now we want to see a full plan for how they can leverage our funding to bring their ideas to reality and benefit the Gulf Coast region.”

Pritchett said the theme of the competition is to spur economic, educational, and environmental action that supports ocean and coastal resources through marine science and technology.

The lionfish trap involves marine researchers from the University of South Florida, wholesaler Sammy’s Seafood, chef Steve Phelps of Indigenous in Sarasota, and a family of commercial fishers, the foundation said. The project is named “Taking Back the Lion’s Share.”

Eco stewards don’t care what’s it’s called if it takes out lionfish. So far spearfishing is the only successful weapon and lionfish derbies are gaining popularity. A record 17½-inch lionfish was bagged at the Suncoast Spearfishing Challenge last year in Sarasota. And 27 divers recently speared 456 lionfish at a Mote-supported event.

The metal traps succeed at depths that are out of range for most divers and reportedly resemble a funnel – one way in, no way out. The device capitalizes on a lionfish’s habit of resting after gorging on native marine wildlife, according to the USF team.

Mote’s scientists are involved in four projects:

Cancer therapies from sharks.

Solar-powered filtration technology for marine and freshwater.

Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable seafood system.

Antibiotics from the sea.

The Challenge began in February with 34 entries.

“We were impressed with all of the ideas that were submitted, and the community clearly likes them too,” Pritchett said.


The Gunk Report

For the Blue-Green Algal Bloom Weekly Update from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tap here. For DEP's Algal Bloom Sampling Map, tap here.

BLUE Ocean Film Festival