PARIS, June 15 — In order to deal with the proliferation of lionfish in certain waters, three experienced divers had the idea of transforming this invasive species into a high-end product: fish leather. The initiative could help reduce fashion’s impact on the planet, while protecting coral reefs, and biodiversity more generally.

There are many and varied alternatives to traditional leather.

After “lab-grown leather“ and “mushroom leather“ — two serious substitutes for animal leather — there’s another new leather-like product made from lionfish, which, contrary to what you might think, could actually help redress an ecological imbalance created by human error several decades ago.


This is the ambitious project of a start-up called Inversa, created by passionate divers, and manufacturing leather from this invasive species that destroys coral reefs, as well as entire oceanic food chains.

A threat to biodiversity

Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, the lionfish did not present any danger to the oceans until it was introduced into the Atlantic, off the coast of Florida, by humans, before proliferating to establish itself permanently in several places, from the Caribbean to Mexico, Brazil and the Mediterranean.


With no natural predators in its new habitat, the lionfish has created an ecological imbalance since the 1990s.

The company Inversa claims that a single one of these fish residing on a coral reef could kill 79 per cent of baby native reef fish within five weeks.

This is an observation that several American divers, including Aarav Chavda, have been making for several years, witnessing first-hand the gradual disappearance of colourful fish species, as well as the destruction of coral reefs.

In a bid to halt the proliferation of this invasive species, they created the start-up Inversa, which manufactures a specific leather from lionfish. This is thin but resistant thanks to its fiber structure, which runs crossways.

The material is then sold to partner brands that make sneakers, wallets, belts, handbags or even watch straps from this lionfish leather.

Saving 70,000 reef fish

Beyond sustainability, Inversa claims that its leather is “regenerative,” explaining that it not only helps protect biodiversity, but is also more sustainable than so-called traditional leathers.

It does not, for example, require huge areas of grazing, contributing to soil degradation and the production of methane emissions.

“Our leathers made from invasive species are helping to solve an environmental crisis and protecting biodiversity. For the first time, products can be more than just “less bad.” Each hide saves up to 70,000 native reef fish and actively heals our planet,” the company says on its website.

While the lionfish leather is tanned and dyed by the American start-up, the raw material is sourced by local fishermen, as Aarav Chavda explains to The Guardian.

The company now intends to create fishing cooperatives in Quintana Roo, Mexico, with firm guarantees that fishermen will be paid quickly and fairly, all while financing the purchase of new equipment.

Inversa has partnered with the Italian footwear brand P448 to offer more sustainable shoes that can help protect biodiversity and restore a certain ecological balance in the world’s oceans and seas. — ETX Studio