Volume 73

Coral Beef: Barriers and Opportunities to a Culinary Lionfish Market in Florida

Burgess, K; N. Smith; K. Clements; J. Solomon
Download PDF Open PDF in Browser

Other Information

Date: November, 2020

Pages: 64

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

City: Virtual

Country: Virtual


Lionfish (Pterois volitans) are an aquatic invasive species in the western Atlantic that cause extensive negative ecological impacts. Following their arrival in the 1980’s, lionfish have colonized ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to mangroves and have been documented at depths ranging from 1-300m. In addition to depleting native reef fish biomass, their impact upon herbivory on coral reefs threatens macroalgae induced phase shifts on shallow reefs. Conservation managers are presented with many considerations for managing invasive lionfish and their social-ecological impacts. Few examples exist for successful management of marine invasive species, but some lionfish removal studies have shown decreased lionfish density and significantly increased prey species biomass. A critical component, and challenge, for any lionfish removal effort is consistency. Consumptive markets are a management solution that requires consistent removals and offers the potential for both livelihood and ecological benefits. This study focuses on Florida’s consumptive market following momentum behind state-wide “eat them to beat them” campaigns. Florida is home to a vibrant restaurant industry. This study aims to fill a large gap in understanding regarding a key stakeholder group: restaurant decision makers such as chefs, owners, and managers. The perspectives of these professionals are understudied, but they contribute to overall restaurant sustainability and can inform public perception about ecological issues. Although lionfish is commercially available in Florida, it is not yet widely used within the restaurant industry. Using a grounded theory approach we interviewed decision makers to understand their perceptions regarding the barriers and opportunities for serving lionfish. Results identified the top barriers (difficulty of harvest and price), top opportunities (processing and traps), previously unreported culinary yield figures, as well as a strong network of restaurant decision makers, researchers, and divers. Conservation managers can leverage this network to facilitate opportunities, address barriers, and promote public education about lionfish threats to coral reefs. This study captures only a small group of important stakeholders, so it’s important to continue consulting these individuals in order to uncover additional opportunities that can meet their challenges and the challenges posed to coral reef ecosystems by invasive lionfish.

PDF Preview