Volume 73

Barriers and motivations for divers to harvest lionfish in Florida: It’s not all about the money

Clements, k; J. Solomon; S. Lauth
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Date: November, 2020

Pages: 66

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Three Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Virtual

Country: Virtual


Lionfish (Pterois volitans) are an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific that have rapidly grown in number in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and West Atlantic since they were introduced in Florida in 1985. They reproduce early in their lifecycle and frequently and consume the juvenile native reef fish that are important to reef health and human livelihoods. In order to combat the spread of this species, management efforts in Florida have in part focused on the development of a market for lionfish. Despite their venomous spines, lionfish is safe to eat and tastes good. The lionfish market is established in Florida and currently supply cannot meet demand. Given that lionfish numbers are still high, why is there a shortage? We examined the motivations and barriers for recreational and commercial divers to harvest lionfish and for chefs to prepare and serve lionfish. We conducted 50 semi-structured interviews via snowball and convenience sampling with divers and chefs throughout Florida at lionfish events (tournaments, cook-offs). Thematic coding of interviews revealed primary motivations for spearing lionfish are recreational, financial, conservation-oriented, and for consumption. Barriers for most recreational and commercial divers to spear lionfish include time and cost, skill, diving risks, licensing, profit, and/or depth. Most chefs reported barriers as inconsistent supply, the small size of lionfish, price, and risk-oriented in relation to employees handling venomous spines. Combined with ecological data on lionfish populations and behavior, these findings elucidate opportunities for improved engagement with divers and chefs and, therefore, strategies for suppression of the invasion.

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