Hyperbole, simile, metaphor, and invasivore: messaging about non-native blue catfish expansion.
In this paper, we explore the news messaging surrounding the introduction and expansion of Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus in mid-Atlantic tidal waters. In the early news reports surrounding the non-native catfish controversy, the species was described with hyperboles and terms that evoked threats, danger, and the need for caution, all of which make science-based debate difficult. Three evidence-based models of invasion effects refer to introduced species as passengers, back-seat drivers, and drivers of ecosystem degradation. Like other non-native species introduced and supported by humans, the Blue Catfish story should shift from the invasiveness metaphor to one of collaborative problem solving to conserve elements of our natural heritage in the face of growing pressures from urbanizing watersheds. We recommend that scientists and managers, in all their communications, avoid value-laden language and focus on exploration of evidence to support alternative management interventions, rather than promoting automatic management positions without considering all aspects of the problem.