Creating high qualtiy leather from invasive lionfish, reviving critical marine ecosystems across the Caribbean.
Invasive species cause ~$1.2T of damage worldwide, the impact of which is disproportionately felt by ocean ecosystems and on developing countries where invasive species management efforts are not well funded. Invasive Lionfish are considered the most destructive marine invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico - their populations have been uncontrollable, leading to rapid spread across enormous areas of ocean. They are effective predators, and rapidly deplete populations of native reef fish – including commercially important species such as snapper and grouper.
Lionfish are small, with low meat yield, and are expensive to hunt, as specialized equipment is required. Small-scale fishers living catch-to-catch have no economic incentives to target lionfish, but letting them go unmanaged poses socioeconomic risk for these same fishers, as lionfish can deplete target species populations by up to 80%.
To change the economics of lionfish management, INVERSA is creating the world’s first invasive leather product that aims to revive ecosystems.
Inversa is a US-based company working across Latin America and the Caribbean, founded to change the economics of invasive lionfish management through the development of a high-value product: exotic leather. The lionfish hides go through a proprietary process, and the product is comparable in quality to other exotic leathers on the market today, such as alligator leather. Inversa is dedicated to ‘greening’ their entire production process as much as possible and have invested heavily in wastewater reduction technologies. The company has recently been selected for the Positive Luxury Accelerator cohort to further their mission to be end-to-end green.
INVERSA’s mission to remove invasive species to re-define leather and revive nature is backed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - as well as supported by the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance, a unique NGO that brings together governments, the public and private finance and insurance sectors, civil society and local communities.
CI Ventures has invested $500,000 USD to support INVERSA as they 1) strengthen their relationships with existing coops and develop partnerships with new coops throughout the Yucatan peninsula, 2) stabilize their supply chains, 3) increase production capacity and local buying power in Mexico, 4) Onboard a dedicated team based in Mexico to oversee local operations, and 5) continue R&D to further improve the overall sustainability of their supply chain.
From this leather product, Inversa has already been able to double the dock price of Lionfish for two fishing cooperatives in Mexico – vastly increasing the attractiveness to hunt. Furthermore, Inversa works with in-country processing and cold-chain companies, keeping more of the total value chain in the areas that most stand to benefit. Additionally, through this investment, we expect INVERA’s business model to ultimately achieve:
The removal of ~60,000 lionfish per year across critical reef ecosystems in Mexico, protecting 300 million native reef fish and overall coral reef ecosystem balance
Save a million gallons of freshwater per year by replacing traditional leathers
Increase incomes for hundreds of fishers in low-income coastal communities