Invasive lionfish in the Mediterranean: Low public awareness yet high stakeholder concerns
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A lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic has been one of the most ecologically harmful fish invasions to date. Experience there has shown that its management is most effective when the public and stakeholders are involved. The lionfish (Pterois miles) has recently invaded the Mediterranean, spreading at an alarming rate. To understand lionfish knowledge and perceptions, questionnaire surveys were conducted with a representative cross section of the adult general public (via telephone) and stakeholders (via organised meetings) in Cyprus. Results from 300 public surveys revealed limited awareness about the lionfish but strong support for its local management. Men and older respondents showed stronger support compared to women and younger respondents, respectively. Results from 108 stakeholder revealed high level of awareness and almost unanimous support for management measures. The majority had not experienced any effects from the recent lionfish invasion, but some reported negative impacts such as limited access to dive sites, ecosystem damage and fishing gear destruction. Few stakeholders perceived benefits of this invasive species, e.g. to dive tourism or as a food source. Almost all stakeholders expressed a willingness to get involved in lionfish management, but only around half would consider personal consumption, or sports incentives as good incentives for their participation. Encouragement from scientists through coordination , training and support was suggested as an essential part of effective management strategy. The results of this study can inform an efficient adaptive management process across the Mediterranean region and assist future engagement of citizen scientists in lionfish control and mitigation.
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