FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – An international effort to stop an invasive species now includes a campaign by a group of Colorado State University graduate students.

Lionfish are beautiful, ornate, reef fish, native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They are also popular pets in home aquariums. But according to a report on CBS Sunday Morning, the fish have found their way into the wild and have invaded tropical Atlantic waters. They are now found from Rhode Island to Brazil and they are devouring native fish and harming coral reef ecosystems.

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A Lionfish (credit: CBS)

A Lionfish (credit: CBS)

“We have lionfish which don’t belong swimming all over our reef areas,” Lad Akins told CBS.

Akins studies lionfish for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. He organizes derbies in the U.S. and the Caribbean for divers to kill the fish.

Now efforts to control the unwelcome lionfish include a campaign by a group of CSU graduate students. The students are in the Conservation Leadership through Learning master’s program and studying in Belize. They turned to crowdfunding to help Belizean women learn how to make jewelry from the tails and fins of the voracious fish.

A woman making jewelry from lionfish (credit: CBS)

A woman making jewelry from lionfish (credit: CBS)

The CSU students raised more than $2,000 in 27 days to provide four women with the opportunity to attend the workshop sponsored by Blue Ventures, an organization that uses commercial strategies to raise awareness for conservation efforts.

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The jewelry making is one of several efforts aimed at reducing the country’s population of the invasive fish. CBS4’s Kathy Walsh talked with CSU student Megan Jones from Belize via Skype. She said the goal of the lionfish program is three-fold.

“Protecting the coral reef, empowering women and developing sustainable fisheries,” said Jones.


The CSU student crowdfunding campaign closed in July, but efforts to eliminate the prickly pest persist including getting the fish on more dinner plates.

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Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.