Lionfish in the US Virgin Islands

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Photo credit Holden Harris

Is it possible to create a viable market for invasive lionfish in the US Virgin Islands?

Project Summary:

Lionfish are an invasive species that are causing significant harm to reefs and reef fish in the Atlantic and Caribbean.  The goal of this project is to assess the viability of a commercial lionfish fishery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This collaborate effort with harvesters and potential markets will focus on the harvest through consumption chain, not the biological dynamics and ecosystem interactions). By integrating harvest information from fishers, spatial information on ciguatera “hot spots” (locations that harbor naturally-occurring toxins that cause this food borne illness), and market preference information, we can develop information to assess whether a commercial fishery is viable and ways that it can be supported.

During this research project, we worked collaboratively with the fishing communities of the US Virgin Islands to understand their knowledge of lionfish, potential interest in catching and selling lionfish, price required to harvest lionfish, and the barriers to market creation.  We also surveyed local consumers, tourists, and restaurants about their knowledge of lionfish, interest in purchasing lionfish, the price they were willing to pay for lionfish, and potential barriers to consumption.

Our findings show that among consumers interested in purchasing lionfish, the willingness to pay for lionfish is higher than that required for fishers to harvest.  However, barriers to creating a market remain.   Education regarding lionfish and the benefits of consuming lionfish are important to creating a larger market for this species.

Further details about lionfish and lionfish consumption are available in educational outreach materials provided below.

Research Publications

Several research publications are in preparation.   As they are published, they will be listed here.


Fact Sheet for Policy Makers

Handbook to the Invasive Lionfish: U.S. Virgin Islands

Lionfish Handling and Treatment FINAL 6.1.2017

Lionfish: Is It Safe to Eat?

Lionfish Information for Consumers

PowerPoint presentation on Lionfish in the USVI to the Caribbean Fishery Management Council – August 29, 2018

May 2016 St. Croix Lionfish Field Course (Emory University)


Project Team

This project was a collaborative effort:

  • Tracy Yandle (PI, Associate Professor, Emory University)
  • Jennifer Tookes (Co-PI, Assistant Professor, Georgia Southern University
  • Sherry Larkin (Co-PI, Associate Dean for Research, IFAS, University of Florida)
  • Michael Page (Co-PI, Lecturer, Geospatial Librarian, Emory University)


In conducting this project, we are grateful for the support we received. We would like to thank:

  • Research Participants in St. Croix and St. Thomas
  • Graduate Student: Paulita Bennet-Martin, Holden Harris, Natalie Mioulis, Katherine Groenevelt, Skyer Simnett, Tyler Breen
  • Undergraduate Students: Duncan Watson, Han Yang, Megan Withers, Jakob Perryman, Molly O’Neil, Kaetlyn Lee, Jeff Kraprayoon, Paige Crowl, Jason Boss
  • USVI Department of Natural Resources, Caribbean Fisheries Management Council
  • NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant # NA15SNMF4270347