A newly developed unmanned robot capable of hunting and catching invasive lionfish is being tested in Bermuda where celebrity chefs have gathered for a cooking competition aimed at raising awareness to the threats the marine eco-system killing predator poses. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: It turns out that lionfish - a venomous carnivore that's decimating marine ecosystems - is delicious. Chefs from the around the world competed in Bermuda this week in an effort to raise awareness of how the venomous carnivore is decimating marine ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Top prize went to Chris Kenny, head chef at Richard Branson's Necker Island for serving up fish & chips, a curry and ceviche all with lionfish as the star ingredient. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRIS KENNY, HEAD CHEF ON RICHARD BRANSON'S NECKER ISLAND, SAYING: "Every chef likes to be sustainable in what they are doing. Lionfish are going to keep spreading and it's not going to stop unless people step in and do something about it," Lionfish have no natural predators in Atlantic waters and females can spawn nearly 2 million eggs per year. They eat nearly everything in their path, destroying entire reefs as their population grows. (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLIN ANGLE, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER, RSE ROBOTICS, SAYING: "On reefs where sport divers are actively diving with harpoons to try and control the lionfish, they actually do a pretty good job. But that's a very small percentage of the ocean and so we needed something far more flexible that could go far deeper, longer." That's Colin Angle, CEO of tech giant iRobot. He decided to tackle the lionfish problem by starting a non-profit company called RSE -- tasked with figuring out a way to keep the invasive fish in check. That's where the Guardian comes in - a remotely- controlled underwater robot that's basically a vacuum cleaner fitted with a taser. (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLIN ANGLE, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER, RSE ROBOTICS, SAYING: "We basically drive the Guardian up to the fish, position it between those two electrodes, apply a current and stun the fish, knocking the fish out. And then there is a motor at the back of the robot which creates a current into the robot and it sucks that fish into the robot." The robot hunter is still in early development with the first prototype unveiled this week ahead of the cooking competition in Bermuda. The hope is if robots can catch them - chefs can cook them - turning an environmental hazard into gourmet cuisine.