UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

David Kling, University of California, Davis

Taming the Lionfish

Date and Location

Monday, November 19, 2012, 12:10 PM - 1:30 PM
ARE Conference Room, 2102 Social Sciences and Humanities


The Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans) invasion is a growing threat to native marine life throughout the Caribbean, Western North Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico. Lionfish abundance is not readily observable, and monitoring the species is costly. Resource managers must plan their response based on imperfect information about the state of the invasion. In this paper, we develop a spatial-dynamic bioeconomic model of lionfish management under imperfect information. We consider the problem of a resource manager who seeks to minimize the present value of both invasion damage and management costs using two controls: lionfish removal effort and monitoring. We account for the manager’s imperfect knowledge of local lionfish abundance by posing the control problem as a continuous-state partially observable Markov decision process (POMDP). Using a newly available approximate solution method, we characterize efficient lionfish management under a range of economic and biological conditions. We find that early monitoring helps the manager limit the impact of the invasion. The importance of monitoring increases with greater biological stochasticity. We provide results for a spatial system that illustrate the roles of population connectivity and spatial heterogeneity in determining the efficient targeting of lionfish removal effort across space. Our study also considers the problem of native species bycatch (unintentional capture of non-target species) arising from lionfish removal. We identify scenarios where tolerating some native species bycatch is worthwhile in order to suppress lionfish numbers.

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