NOT EVERYONE’S CUP OF TEA: PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF CULLING INVASIVE LIONFISH IN CYPRUS

Not everyone’s cup of tea: Public perception of culling invasive lionfish in Cyprus

Carlos Jimenez, Vasilis Andreou, Louis Hadjioannou, Antonis Petrou, Rana Abu Alhaija, Pantelis Patsalou

Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre (ENALIA), 2 Acropoleos St., Aglanjia 2101, Nicosia, CYPRUS
Energy, Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC) of The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, CYPRUS

Abstract

The selective removal of the invasive lionfish Pterois miles is among the alternative methods available to reduce, at least locally, the abundance of this invasive species. The present study provides information regarding people’s perceptions on the lionfish establishment in Cyprus focusing on culling as a management option. A series of informal interviews of 415 individuals from different sectors of the society were conducted in-person and through social media platforms from 2012 to 2017. The majority of the interviewees (65%) were aware about the lionfish; within this group, 23% considered the species to be good for the environment, 39% bad and 38% did not know. Not surprisingly, most of the interviewees that consider the species bad supported culling (75%) and those that considered it good condoned any culling activities (62%). The reasons given for not supporting culling were because the species enhance marine diversity (38%), is dangerous (28%), is beautiful (25%), and has the right to live (9%). Contradictory opinions (e.g. even though the lionfish is bad for the environment culling is not an alternative) seem to be explained by the absence of data on the ecological effects of the species as well as general misconceptions about the marine ecology of the Levantine Sea.

Keywords: Pterois miles, management, selective removal, non-indigenous species, interviews, Mediterranean