Invasive fish species – a threat to human health

Invasive toxic fish Lagocephalus sceleratus

Toxic fish Lagocephalus sceleratus.

It has entered and spreads throughout Mediterranean waters.

Some invasive fish species can be carriers of strong paralytic toxin. The risks involved with consuming the fish are undoubtedly and European legislation clearly states that toxic fish should not enter the European markets. A recent study investigated the ecological characteristics of Lagocephalus sceleratus, a dangerous and extremely poisonous fish and one of the most invasive fish species in Mediterranean waters. Recently, two humans in Cyrpus were in critical condition and brought to the hospital after eating this poisonous fish. Results of studies, such as the one of Kalogirou 2013, are important to manage the unwanted introduced species, to understand how these species can affect the food web structure and how they function in their new ecosystem. Scientists say that it is a future challenge for all stakeholders in the Mediterranean Sea to deal with this threat and a right legislation and management is mandatory.

KEYWORDS: toxic fish, NIS, human health, invasive species

AREA OF STUDY: Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea – hotspot of marine bioinvesion

The Mediterranean Sea is being considered as one of the main hotspots of marine bioinvasions and it shows increasing rates of introductions. As a result, studies on origin of invaders, the mode of transport and also biotic and abiotic descriptions of the invaded areas are vast. But less attention has been given on the ecological and social consequences of introduced species. And thus although some invaded fish species, such as Lagocephalus sceleratus are carriers of strong paralytic toxin. To prevent humans to be food poisoned by such fishes, a European legislation was adopted in 2004, which states that toxic fish should not enter the European markets (854/2004/EC).

Lagocephalus sceleratus

Lagocephalus sceleratus is a silver-cheeked Toadfish known as Fugu or Puffer Fish. It belongs to the Tetraodontidae family that was firstly recorded in the Mediterranean in 2003 and invaded through the Suez Canal. It is a dangerous and extremely poisonous fish that is spreading rapidly and has reached already the Central Mediterranean Sea. It contains tetrodotoxin (TTX), a potent neurotoxin that could be lethal. Lagocephalus sceleratus is considered one of the most invasive fish species for the Mediterranean Sea.

On a regional scale projects have been already funded to support awareness campaigns in municipalities across the Eastern Mediterranean. But there is still a lot to do and to investigate.

lagocephalus, awareness poster, oceanus

But how can we monitor and prohibit the consequences of introduced species when we don’t know the ecology of this species in its new environment?!

Results of the study on the invasive toxic fish Lagocephalus sceleratus.

A recent study investigated the invasive toxic fish Lagocephalus sceleratus. Focus was given on the establishment of L. sceleratus in coastal habitats where commercial boat seine fisheries exists. This study provides important information on the life-cycle characteristics of this species in its new environment. The habitat preference, the Feeding ecology and reproduction, as well as the Length-weight relationship and condition of L. sceleratus were described.

Results of such studies can be given to fishermen, professionals and private fishers to increase awareness and knowledge. Professional fisherman can be trained to recognize the species, which then can inform scientists and local authorities on their findings and stop the risk of species entering into the market. By doing so, for example food poisoning accidents, such as the recent one in Cyprus, can be avoided. There, a woman and its sun were brought in critical condition to the hospital after eating this poisonous fish.

More importantly, studies as the one of Kalogirou can give important insights into the possible ecological consequences of invasive species in the food chain. They can support the Officials in Eastern and Central Mediterranean Countries to build management strategies of  invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea and minimize the certain negative impact on human health.


STORY SOURCE: The above post is written based on the scientific study of Kalogirou, 2013. Materials provided by: Mediterranean Marine Science. Further information sources: Cyprus-mail, Oceanus and IUCN Red List. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
CITE THIS PAGE: “Invasive fish species – a threat to human health” The Blue Reporters, April 2016
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