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THE AQUATIC INVADERS: Marine Management Figuring Fishermen, Fisheries, and Lionfish in The Bahamas



The lionfish is an enigmatic, beautiful, and invasive marine species in The Bahamas, where the reef ecology is construed as vulnerable while fishermen and invasive fish are seen as primary threats. This article considers fisheries anthropology through recent attempts to incorporate the lionfish into the Bahamian fishery as a commercial fish species, and it explains how the mysterious fish has become symbolic of the creativity and design of contemporary fisheries and fisheries management. Starting with the premise that marine management creatively calls fish, fishermen, and fisheries into being as socially charged objects through conservation-oriented studies of fishing and invasion, the article engages with maritime anthropology, social studies of invasive biology, and multispecies ethnography to ask what is natural about fisheries and what is naturalized within discourses of fisheries crisis. The point is to determine what key aspects of fisheries, fish, and fishermen have been and are being designed in The Bahamas such that the fishery has become a specific site of oppositional figuration. Through an analysis of the metaphorics of impact, the human-centered focus on negative change stabilizing and grounding reef conservation endeavors, we see how fishermen and lionfish have become malleable cultural figures in The Bahamas, figures that are simultaneously transgressive and hopeful.