LionfishMore news has come to light to suggest that it may not be a good idea to fight the Caribbean lionfish invasion by eating the critters. The St. Maarten Nature Foundation warns of lionfish-related ciguatera risk:

The Nature Foundation is recommending that the Invasive Lionfish not be eaten or consumed based on a recently concluded study where flesh samples which were taken of larger lionfish caught in St. Maarten waters showed levels of the poisonous ciguatoxin which causes Ciguatera poisoning.

Ciguatera poisoning is caused by naturally occurring toxins, called ciguatoxins, which are produced by microscopic plants – gambierdiscus toxicus – that live on seaweed and other surfaces within coral reef communities.

When fish eat seaweed or algae they consume the organisms and the ciguatoxins build up in the fish’s flesh.

The toxin is stored in the fishes’ body and not excreted – so it builds up as it goes up the food chain.

The bigger fish eat the little fish and the toxin gets passed on until it is consumed by humans. Predators at the top of the food chain – like barracuda and lionfish – can end up with large amounts of the toxin in their flesh.

No test can be done to determine if the fish is poisoned and cooking and preparation have no affect on the toxin. The toxin is unrelated to the venom found in the spines of the Lionfish.

“This is very bad news for us as we were planning on promoting lionfish as an edible, commercially viable fish which we hoped would help in reducing its numbers along the reefs.

However, before we started telling the community that the fish is edible we wanted to be absolutely sure that there were no health care threats associated with eating the fish.

With our partners in the USVI and in the French Islands we tested several samples of lionfish meat and have found that unfortunately an uncomfortably high percentage showed the presence of ciguatoxin in the meat.

Therefore we do not recommend that Lionfish be eaten.

Various countries and territories in the Caribbean have been promoting lionfish as edible. However these areas usually do not have a high level of ciguatoxin in their larger reef fish.

The North Eastern Caribbean from Guadeloupe to the Virgin Islands, including St. Maarten, have a higher level of ciguatoxin than most other areas in the Caribbean.

So to be absolutely safe rather than sorry, we unfortunately can not recommend the eating of lionfish as a method for controlling them,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Read the full article for further details.

Previously on Green Antilles: Lionfish and ciguatera risk.

[Photo: Sean Nash]

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2 Responses to “More data emerges about ciguatera toxin in lionfish” Subscribe

  1. roger allewaert November 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Lionfish is now a delicatesse in major restaurants in the Florida Keys, and I heard in Saba and on St Barths the delicious fish is served also. I understand, after talking to biologists, that toxic algae are brought up in the food chain, when ships sink, when powerfull hurricanes move up sand, and especially when human activity sturrs up the upper 10 centimeters of the sand layer , where these toxic algae thrive.So it is understandable that locally on Sint-Maarten, and similar mass tourist islands, with all these useless seaside construction sites , the throphee boats that are allowed to anker everywhere, the numerous stupid jet skies and motor boats , the numerous ”safari” dives catering to idiots with no respect for the reefs, etc , that ciguatera is everywhere.
    Please do not scare people that live in pristine locations, with enforced nature park legislation like Saba, St Barths, and some locations in the Florida Keys, to enjoy their Lionfish treat. Ciguatera is a terrible disease, and sometimes deadly, but clever populations that have preserved their natural habitats, deserve to enjoy the fruits of what they have envisioned.Sorry, no deli lionsfish treats on Sint-Maarten, for many decades to come………

    • diver December 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      First off, they are not that delicious, they are a relatively plain white fish with not a lot of flavor themselves, though they do take on the flavor of whatever they are sauteed in.

      Having lived in the Caribbean for some time, I can tell you quite readily that a simple passing storm stirs up much more sand than anything humans could ever imagine doing, even over the course of a year. Just a simple passing tropical storm displaced thousands of cubic yards of sand in just a small area that I used to dive frequently.

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