MSc internship report
Within scientific literature, many have expressed the potential of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) to ecologically harm marine ecosystems. Ever since the invasive lionfish was introduced to the Atlantic Ocean and into the Caribbean Sea, it continues to spread out, now reaching the waters surrounding Brazil and beyond. As the introduction of the invasive species into these waters is a relatively new problem, so are the management strategies aimed to combat this problem. It is therefore important to undertake analyses as time goes on and this dynamic changes. In the case of Bonaire, the PADI Distinctive Lionfish Hunter Specialty course was created to generate more volunteers for the purpose of including tourists to become part of Stichting Nationale Parken (STINAPA) Bonaire’s lionfish management and control strategy. This thesis sought to investigate the nature of engaging in a Lionfish Hunter Specialty course and its intended and unintended consequences in relation to the conservational objectives of the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP).
Using a practice-based approach, this thesis demonstrated how engaging in a Lionfish Hunter Specialty course is carried out, and how it evolves over space and time. Using qualitative research techniques that included desk research, field observations and nineteen semi-structured in-depth interviews, an attempt was made to map out the social practice. Zooming-in on the practice provided further detailed descriptions on the enabling factors that support it, and via the zooming-out technique, I was led to further describe the practice-arrangement bundles, which displayed how the practice is embedded in a global network of interconnected practices. Deeper analyses concerning these global interconnected practices have been omitted for they go beyond the scope of this research.
Based on the results, it is concluded that engagement in the specialty course did generate an increase in volunteers, with the vast majority of participants involving tourists. One goal of STINAPA was to increase volunteers to assist in overfishing the lionfish to control lionfish density. Further, engagement in the practice involved the dive centres that generated profit to local dive instructors. Moreover, a consumption campaign was launched that created a high demand for lionfish fillet in restaurants, resulting in further profits for divers and restaurants. According to respondents the majority of the lionfish catches are attributed to the resident lionfish hunters opposed to the tourists. The added value of including tourists in the lionfish management and control plan is mainly for commercial reasons, education and raising awareness. The two most frequently mentioned downsides of engagement in the specialty course, are firstly inadequate use of the modified speargun (called the ELF, or ‘’Eliminate Lionfish’’ tool) as well as inexperienced divers hanging on to coral reef, structures, or lying on the seabed, resulting in reef damage. And second, failing to successfully target the lionfish by which it adapts its behaviour and becomes wary of divers.