Date of Original Version
Volunteers are extensively involved in monitoring and controlling invasive species. Most research has examined volunteer activity in groups organized “top-down”, but we examined a local community-based group removing lionfish in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) with a specific focus on the use of social media by the group. Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois miles, P. lunulate and P. russelii) are invasive in the Western Atlantic Ocean and can impact the composition and function of coral reef communities. In response, resource managers and scientists have organized programs using divers and snorkelers to remove lionfish. In the volunteer-led BVI program, participants searched for and culled lionfish in their spare time and used a public Facebook group to record their activity. We compiled all lionfish-related posts from 2012 to 2014 (n = 654). Lionfish were reported at 147 sites, and 1451 lionfish were culled from 117 sites, but activity was concentrated at 35 established dive/snorkeling sites. We also performed SCUBA surveys (n = 27 sites). Survey results were consistent with Facebook reports in suggesting that culling made lionfish wary but did not consistently reduce lionfish abundance or size-distributions. Most removals were conducted by a core group of locals whereas a much larger group of locals and visitors, some of whom apparently participated after seeing the Facebook page, contributed mainly by reporting the location of sightings. Those removing lionfish frequently followed-up on posted sightings, suggesting that social networking facilitated information sharing by guiding the selection of hunting sites. Posts were also used by participants to encourage one another and share negative attitudes about lionfish. Community-based groups are challenged by limited resources, however social-media networks may facilitate communication among participants in ways that help motivate, coordinate and direct group activity.
Management of Biological Invasions
Forrester, G. E., Dzilenski, K. B., & Gleeson, D. W. (2021). Use of social-media networking to facilitate a grass-roots lionfish removal program in the British Virgin Islands. Management of Biological Invasions, 12(2), 420-440. https://doi.org/10.3391/mbi2021.12.2.14
Available at: https://doi.org/10.3391/mbi2021.12.2.14
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