Local knowledge and awareness on the incipient lionfish invasion in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Public participation is increasingly used to both study and manage marine bio-invasions. Here, we outline the use of public surveys to rapidly acquire information on the very first stages of colonisation by the invasive Pterois miles in the Mediterranean Sea. Interviews with 105 fishermen, spearfishers and scuba divers in Lebanon provided evidence of a proliferation and rapid expansion of the species, whose presence at the time of the survey was less than that of a true invasion. We also evaluate the role of stakeholders and sea users in responding to this emerging hazard, investigating awareness and willingness to collaborate on managing efforts. These findings showed the potential of local communities to acquire ecological knowledge not available to scientists working alone. This participative approach also consolidates the dialogue and partnership between researchers and stakeholders ameliorating the civil response to time-sensitive conservation issues.