Beginning this spring, the University of West Florida College of Business will offer a new course that will delve into the potential to market the highly invasive lionfish to consumers. The hope is that enhancing the lionfish market as food could help curb its threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico.
The course, Gulf Coast Business Issues: Lionfish Markets, will be taught by Dr. Bill Huth, a distinguished University professor, and Dr. Felicia Morgan, an associate professor in the College of Business. Students can register for the course beginning Nov. 13.
“It’s an interdisciplinary course,” Morgan said. “The issues that we’re covering run the whole gamut, from science, to ethics, to commerce, to hospitality, to supply chain marketing, consumer education and hospitality.”
The lionfish has no known predators in the Gulf. Students in the course will study the impact of lionfish on marine and coastal ecosystems as well as on industries such as tourism and recreation.
Huth, along with a team of researchers from Appalachian State University, surveyed consumers about their willingness to pay to eat lionfish. He also conducted an economic experiment at the Pensacola Seafood Festival where he discovered that consumers were willing to pay north of $30 a pound for lionfish.
“The results were consumers were willing to pay a premium,” Huth said.
While the consumer demand may be there, lionfish typically can’t be reeled in with a hook and line. They have to be spearfished.
“There really isn’t a complete fishery,” Huth said. “The whole supply chain doesn’t exist.”
The new UWF course will also examine how to start up a lionfish fishery, how to better market the lionfish to consumers and set up a business that sells lionfish.
“We will basically look at what it takes to establish a food truck or set of food trucks as a restaurant business,” Huth said.
Huth and Morgan also plan to bring in experts on lionfish to talk to students. Among those will be representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Huth said.
“For business students, I think it’s an unprecedented opportunity to kind of explore and work on something where they can actually have an impact in solving the problem,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the course could be the first in a series that examines business issues that are germane to the Gulf Coast.
“The idea is we will tackle issues that are very relevant to us here in our city and our region,” she said. “Of course, the lionfish issue, is right here, right now, and it needs to be addressed.”