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Creating a market for invasive Lionfish and providing financial security for fishers

Creating a market for invasive Lionfish and providing financial security for fishers

Project Lead: Acari LLC
Supporting Partners: Inversa Leathers, Conservación de la Biodiversidad del Usumacinta A.C., and Protegra 
Support: Received mentoring and training from the Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge (ORIC) which is financially supported by the Swiss Re Foundation, the UK’s Blue Planet Fund, and the United States Department of State
Location: La Guajira, Colombia and Quintana Roo, Mexico
Financial Innovation: Acari LLC is creating a market for Lionfish as pet food by providing price premiums, advanced payment and technical training to fishers. 


This project is building a network of small-scale fishers to capture and process the invasive lionfish while creating a market for their use as pet food. Acari LLC provides a market guarantee to fishers by purchasing 100 per cent of the production and paying upfront. As a result, fishers are incentivised to catch invasive species and help native fish populations to thrive while improving coastal incomes.  


Invasive species are one of the highest drivers of biodiversity loss1 as they outcompete native species for resources and territory and have few natural predators. Over the past two decades, artisanal fishers in Latin America have experienced severe repercussions due to the invasive lionfish. The Pacific-Indo lionfish in particular is considered responsible for reducing native Atlantic coral reef fish species by 79 per cent2. Despite their abundance and threat to local biodiversity, there is currently little demand to capture lionfish, due to cultural factors and the higher costs to catch and process them.  


Acari LLC is incentivising fishers to capture and process invasive lionfish by providing a guaranteed market price. Under this business model, Acari purchases 100 per cent of the production and pays fishers upfront, rather than traditional intermediaries who pay one to two weeks later. Acari also trains fishing cooperatives in how to produce dried invasive fish for export – which are later sold as pet treats. Thanks to this partnership, a distribution network in the United States, and Acari’s advanced payment model, fishers have the opportunity to quickly double their daily income3 by catching invasive lionfish. 

Scalability and Next Steps

To build processing capacity in coastal communities, Acari LLC is exploring funding mechanisms to facilitate the upfront investment needed for fishing cooperatives’ processing plants, to be repaid through revenues and production.  

Under the ORIC23 cohort, Acari aims to expand its activities and build a supply chain for lionfish in Colombia. This project will focus on supporting fishing cooperatives with technical training and upgrading their processing capabilities to meet US Food and Drug Administration standards. This way, the lionfish caught is processed to appropriate food grade standard. Acari is also partnering with Inversa Leathers – a previous ORIC project winner – to process a higher percentage of lionfish to create pet treats and leather. 

“By working with fishing cooperatives across Southern Mexico and the Caribbean to turn invasive lionfish into pet treats, we’re able to create additional revenue streams for affected fishermen while helping restore coral reefs.

Through our partnership with Inversa Leathers, we create even more value for each fish and in turn, pass along higher incomes in the communities we work in.” – Mike Mitchell, founder of Acari LLC 

2 Albins, Mark & Hixon, Mark. (2008).