TIL: Lionfish Jewelry Can Help Save the Ocean

National Geographic grantee Erin Spencer dives into this week’s Today I Learned with one of the leading threats to biodiversity: the invasive lionfish.

Originally from the Indo-Pacific region, lionfish were introduced to Florida’s coast in the 1980s. They have since spread throughout the western Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. These “vacuums of the sea” feed on native fish species and wreck ecosystems important to biodiversity and local economies.

Lionfish are prolific breeders. With no natural predators, and the ability to reproduce every four days, a lionfish and its offspring can produce 8.1 quintillion eggs in just three months. That’s a lot of caviar!

Spencer explains how some coastal villages have found an innovative way to take their ocean back: jewelry. Women living in these communities are turning the lionfish’s beautiful, venomous spines into unique fashion accessories that tourists crave, and this increase in demand incentivizes fisherman to pull more lionfish out of the ocean.

“They’re the ultimate conversation starter,” Spencer says, and tourists buying lionfish jewelry is helping spark conversations about the invasive species around the world.

PRODUCER/EDITOR: Laurence Alexander
SERIES PRODUCER: Christopher Mattle