Using Markets to Control Invasive Species: Lionfish in the US Virgin Islands
Invasive lionfish are affecting reef ecosystems along the Gulf Coast and Caribbean. By establishing commercial fisheries and harvesting lionfish in mass, it may be possible to reduce their ecological footprint in the region. Nonetheless, there has been little research assessing the viability of a consumer market for lionfish meat. Using data collected in the US Virgin Islands (USVI), this study examines individuals’ willingness to participate in a hypothetical market for lionfish meat and their potential consumption levels. Consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for lionfish meat is also estimated. Findings suggest that individuals’ market participation and consumption levels are correlated with concerns for food safety and the environment, and consumer WTP is compatible with dockside prices of other species of reef fish. These findings suggest that a latent demand structure for lionfish meat may already exist in the USVI and that the prospect of a commercial fishery is worth additional exploration.