Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 1351–1357 | Cite as

Mayan diver-fishers as citizen scientists: detection and monitoring of the invasive red lionfish in the Parque Nacional Arrecife Alacranes, southern Gulf of Mexico

  • María José López-Gómez
  • Alfonso Aguilar-PereraEmail author
  • Leidy Perera-Chan
Invasion Note


Biological invasions research has increasingly incorporated the participation of citizen scientists to collect data for monitoring and management purposes. This study outlines collaborative efforts with Mayan lobster diver-fishers, who participated voluntarily as citizen scientists in surveys, to detect and monitor the invasive red lionfish, Pterois volitans, in a marine protected area off the northern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. We engaged these fishers by building local capacity and awareness of the threats of the lionfish invasion on the fishery resources of the area. During the lobster fishing season (July 2010–February 2011), 30 fishers collected 248 red lionfish (9–29 cm TL) and recorded ancillary data (day, month, depth, and approximate coordinates of capture site). This collaboration not only allowed the first lionfish detection in the Parque Nacional Arrecife Alacranes in 2010, but the volunteer-based monitoring effort revealed that the invasion reached levels from intermediate to advanced, with more than 200 specimens captured in less than a year. Our results support the notion that engaging citizen scientists can enhance research, reduce costs, and improve the possibility of a long term monitoring survey.


Citizen scientist Volunteer participation Pterois volitans Yucatan Peninsula Gulf of Mexico Red lionfish 



We thank participant Mayan diver-fishers of the cooperativa “Pescadores del Golfo” in Yucatán. Personnel of the Parque Nacional Arrecife Alacranes—René Kantún, Yrvin Ramírez, Axcan Moreno—provided valuable logistic assistance. Dr. Armin Tuz-Sulub helped in many phases of the work. We thank Ximena González, Kimberly Briceño, and Evelyn Carrillo. This study was partially funded by PROCODES from the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP).


  1. Aguilar-Perera A, Tuz-Sulub A (2010) Non-native, invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus, 1758]: Scorpaenidae), is first recorded in the southern Gulf of Mexico, off the northern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Aquat Invasions 5:S9–S12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akins JL (2012) Control strategies: tools and techniques for local control. In: Morris JAJ (ed) Invasive lionfish: a guide to control and management. Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Special Publication Series No. 1, Marathon, FL, 113 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Almany GR, Hamilton RJ, Williamson DH, Evans RD, Jones GP, Matawai M, Potuku T, Rhodes KL, Russ GR, Sawynok B (2010) Research partnerships with local communities: two case studies from Papua New Guinea and Australia. Coral Reefs 29:567–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbour AB, Allen MS, Frazer TK, Sherman KD (2011) Evaluating the potential efficacy of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) removals. PLoS One 6(5):e19666PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandon A, Spyreas G, Molano-Flores B, Carroll C, Ellis J (2003) Can volunteers provide reliable data for forest vegetation surveys? Nat Areas J 23:254–261Google Scholar
  6. Chávez E, Tunnell JW, Withers K (2007) Reef zonation and ecology: Veracruz shelf and Campeche Bank. In: Tunnel JW, Chávez EA, Whiters K (eds) Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX, pp 41–67Google Scholar
  7. Cohn JP (2008) Citizen science: can volunteers do real research? Bioscience 58:192–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conrad CC, Hilchey KG (2011) A review of citizen science and community-based environmental monitoring: issues and opportunities. Environ Monit Assess 176:273–291PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crall AW, Newman GJ, Jarnevich CS, Stohlgren TJ, Waller DM, Graham J (2010) Improving and integrating data on invasive species collected by citizen scientists. Biol Invasions 12:3419–3428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dangles O, Carpio FC, Villares M, Yumisaca F, Liger B, Rebaudo F, Silvain JF (2010) Community-based participatory research helps farmers and scientists to manage invasive pests in the Ecuadorian Andes. Ambio 39:325–333PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danielsen F, Burgess ND, Balmford A (2005) Monitoring matters: examining the potential of locally-based approaches. Biodivers Conserv 14:2507–2542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delaney DG, Sperling CD, Adams CS, Leung B (2008) Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biol Invasions 10:117–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frazer TK, Jacoby CA, Edwards MA, Barry SC, Manfrino CM (2012) Coping with the lionfish invasion: can targeted removals yield beneficial effects? Rev Fish Sci 20:185–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Green SJ, Akins JL, Maljkovic A, Cote IM (2012) Invasive lionfish drive Atlantic coral reef fish declines. PLoS One 7:e32596PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kadoya T, Ishii HS, Kikuchi R, Suda S, Washitani I (2009) Using monitoring data gathered by volunteers to predict the potential distribution of the invasive alien bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Biol Conserv 142:1011–1017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Liao YC, Chen LS, Shao KT (2010) The predatory Atlantic red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, has invaded the western Taiwanese coast in the Indo-West Pacific. Biol Invasions 12:1961–1965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mehtaa SV, Haightb RG, Homansa FR, Polaskya S, Venettec RC (2007) Optimal detection and control strategies for invasive species management. Ecol Econ 61:237245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Morris JAJ, Whitfield PE (2009) Biology, ecology, control and management of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish: an updated integrated assessment. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 99, 57 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. Penrose D, Call SM (1995) Volunteer monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates—regulatory biologists perspectives. J N Am Benthol Soc 14:203–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ríos-Lara V, Salas S, Bello-Pineda J (2007) Distribution patterns of spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) at Alacranes reef, Yucatan: spatial analysis and inference of preferential habitat. Fish Res 87:35–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Schofield PJ (2010) Update on geographic spread of invasive lionfishes (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus, 1758] and P. miles [Bennett, 1828]) in the Western North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Aquat Invasions 5:S117–S122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schultz ET (1986) Pterois volitans and Pterois miles: two valid species. Copeia 3:686–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Semmens BX, Buhle ER, Salomon AK, Pattengill-Semmens CV (2004) A hotspot of non-native marine fishes: evidence for the aquarium trade as an invasion pathway. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 266:239–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Whitfield PE, Hare JA, David AW, Harter SL, Muñoz RC, Addison CM (2007) Abundance estimates of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans/miles complex in the Western North Atlantic. Biol Invasions 9:53–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • María José López-Gómez
    • 1
  • Alfonso Aguilar-Perera
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leidy Perera-Chan
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología MarinaUniversidad Autónoma de YucatánMéridaMéxico

Personalised recommendations