This study investigates how the lionfish (Pterois sp.) invasion of the Western Atlantic Ocean has been socially constructed by natural scientists, the media, and stakeholders associated with various marine protected areas in the Caribbean. By examining the use of data and metaphors by these actors, I identify where invasion discourses converge and diverge. Although consensus exists regarding the non-nativeness, introduction vector, and successful establishment of lionfish throughout the region, I also identify uncertainty surrounding lionfish impact and controversies regarding lionfish management and control. The dominant discourse frames lionfish as a threat and control efforts as a war to keep the enemy at bay, and promotes lionfish hunting and consumption by humans: the “ultimate predators.” However, this view is challenged by a coalition that questions the safety, effectiveness, and morality of the practices promoted by the kill-and-eat lionfish coalition. A nascent discourse that frames lionfish as fulfilling the role of overexploited native species, primarily expressed in socioeconomic terms, is shifting lionfish impact perception from negative to positive among some stakeholder groups. Whereas the dominant discourse views humans as helping nature to regain balance through lionfish hunting, a minority coalition views lionfish as part of the ecosystem, where a new equilibrium will be reached. This study shows that scientific data and metaphors, amplified by the media, facilitated initial understanding of the lionfish phenomenon and are used to legitimize claims. In time, however, local knowledge and societal values have intermingled with scientific data, sometimes challenging scientific discourses, and contributing to a richer understanding of the invasion as a social-ecological phenomenon.
Understanding the drivers and barriers to participation in citizen science initiatives for conservation is important if long-term involvement from volunteers is expected. This study investigates the motivations of individuals from five marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Dutch Caribbean to (not) participate in different initiatives around lionfish. Following an interpretive approach, semi-structured interviews with seventy-eight informants were conducted and analyzed using thematic network analysis. Approximately 60% (n = 48) of informants indicated that they had participated in citizen science initiatives at the outset of the invasion. From this group, almost half said that they still participated in some type of data collection, but only a few did so within a citizen science context. Many informants were initially motivated to participate in lionfish detection and response initiatives due to concern for the environment. Personal meanings attached to both the data collection experiences and to the data influenced informants’ motivations to sustain or cease data collection and/or sharing. In time, the view of lionfish as a threat changed for many informants as this species’ recreational and/or commercial value increased. Enabling and constraining factors for data collection and sharing were identified at the personal, interpersonal, organizational and technical levels. Our findings have implications for the design of future citizen science initiatives focused on invasive species.