Off the eastern coasts of the United States and in seas throughout the Caribbean, a beautiful but destructive creature creeps along, disrupting every habitat it inhabits. The lionfish is a relatively new resident in the Atlantic, likely having been released by fish hobbyists about 30 years ago. But the invasive species quickly spread and now occupy waters as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Panama.
“The problem with the lionfish is it’s like Darwin’s nightmare,” marine biologist Oliver Steeds told PBS NewsHour last August. With vicious spines and an appetite to match, lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic so they easily take over. And, once they do, they’re practically impossible to control. Steeds is the mission direction of Nekton, the organization behind Robotics in the Service of Environment (RSE) a nonprofit that’s developing a lionfish exterminator.
After months in development, RSE has now launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its Guardian LF1 robot and its fight against the lionfish.
Guardian LF1 – Lionfish catching robot
The Guardian is a tethered robot made up of eight thrusters that allow it to perform a number of complex maneuvers while remaining stable in undersea currents. Two rods at the front of the device are designed to administer a low, controlled voltage that temporarily stuns the fish while jets of water suck the prey into a holding tube. Once collected from the tube, the lionfish can be culled and used for food — apparently they’re delicious.
In fact, a number of projects have been encouraging people to hunt and eat lionfish for years. Florida even had an app for that. The problem is, while spear fisherman can get to them in the shallows, most lionfish live at depths of around 200 feet, which is too deep for the average diver. RSE’s Guardian solution is designed specifically to get to these depths.
In supporting the project, backers can get rewards that include a lionfish fishing permit ($10), a lionfish cookbook ($25), and an “Eat ’em to Beat ’em” sweatshirt ($65).