In partnership with our friends at Lionfish University, Coast Watch Alliance exhibited at the 2017 Dive Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) tradeshow in Orlando, Florida from November 1st - November 4th. With over a dozen volunteers in attendance, Coast Watch Alliance spoke with thousands of industry professionals about the environmental dangers posed by invasive lionfish and the best ways to control their prolific rise. "The response from the dive community was incredible", says Anna Clark, Coast Watch Alliance's Principal Scientist. "We've exhibited at DEMA before but we've never had more interest or audience participation."
In addition to distributing literature and holding live lionfish demonstrations, Coast Watch Alliance prepared and served over 100lbs of lionfish ceviche. It wasn't uncommon to see participants coming back for second and third servings. Deanna Richburg, Coast Watch Alliance's Chief Fundraiser, had this to say: "Our goal was to show the diving public, many of whom hadn't tried lionfish before, that this fish is both safe to eat and wonderfully tasty. Until the word is truly out and lionfish appears on menus at restaurants across the country, it is important to create consumers one at a time. Events like DEMA give us an opportunity to engage people one-on-one and hopefully change a few hearts and minds."
The final day of DEMA held two important events. The first, a lionfish panel comprised of lionfish experts from around the globe, saw Dr. Steve Gittings from NOAA give credit to Coast Watch Alliance and Lionfish University for our countless hours supporting lionfish trap research in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. "It's rewarding to see our work recognized at such a high level", says Brian Asher, Coast Watch Alliance's Director of Operations. "We don't do this for the money or the glory. We're here for the cause. That said... a pat on the back every now and then is nice", he continued.
The second and final event was the Coast Watch Alliance Raffle. Through the generous support of dive equipment manufacturers and members of the diving public, Coast Watch Alliance raffled off over one hundred items including a dive computer, a wetsuit, and a custom lionfish pole spear. This raffle netted close to $1,000 to offset the cost of exhibiting at DEMA. "We continue to be humbled and extremely grateful for your generous support", said Deanna. "Thank you so, so very much. We'll see you next year in Las Vegas!"