What's for dinner? Assessing the value of an edible invasive species and outreach actions to promote its consumption.
The consumption of edible aquatic invasive species has gained popularity as a means to minimize their impacts while easing pressure on native resources and ecosystems. Weakfish Cynoscion regalis (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) is one of the most recent invasive fish species in the Iberian Peninsula (Europe) which once sustained an important fishery in the native range (Northwest Atlantic Ocean). Portugal ranks third in the list of the world's fish consumers, so promoting a weakfish fishery could at least minimize the impacts upon native species, since weakfish have innate traits that are appreciated by Portuguese fish consumers. However, introducing a new species to consumers is challenging owing to consumers' habits and unfamiliarity with the species. So, we aimed to (i) evaluate the acceptance of weakfish by a panel of Portuguese fish consumers and (ii) create outreach actions-partnerships with local Chefs and press releases-to explain to a broader audience what invasive species are and promote the consumption of edible aquatic invasive species. We conducted a consumers survey that showed that weakfish has great chances of being well accepted by Portuguese fish consumers- 90% would buy weakfish because they appreciated its appearance, flavor, and texture, besides being a wild fish. The outreach actions reached a few million people because 46 online articles were published, and three news pieces were broadcasted on national television. Our strategy increased the public's awareness about weakfish as an invasive species, which could be adapted for other non-indigenous marine species elsewhere in the world.