Cases of Marine Fish Poisoning

Cases of Marine Fish Poisoning

By Rafael D. Guerrero III


Some marine fish become poisonous after feeding on toxin-producing organisms.


            With the frequent occurrence of red tide on Philippines waters, the public has become wary and discriminating in its choice of seafood. The red tide renders bivalves like mussels, oysters and clams in affected coastal areas unsafe for human consumption. Fishes are generally not problematic as long as people remove their gills and entails before they are cooked and eaten.

            There are instances, however, when marine fish poisonings do occur and lead to sickness or even death. Cases of ciguatera, pufferfish poisoning and goby fish poisoning have occurred in the country.

            Ciguatera is a disease caused by the eating of toxic fishes that inhabit like red snappers, groupers and eels become poisonous when they prey on plant-eating fishes like the surgeonfish (“labahita”). These have, in turn, eaten blue-green algae present in coral reefs producing the poisonous substance.

            The symptoms of ciguatera are prickling of lips, tongue and throat; numbness, nausea and vomiting. The victim may also experience dryness of mouth, abdominal cramps and insomnia. While the death rate for the disease is usually low, recovery is slow and may take several months.

            The poison causing ciguatera is known as ciguatoxin. Although there is no known antidote for the disease, the intravenous administration of mannitol reportedly alleviates symptoms. The disease is common in the South Pacific where the incidence is estimated to be as high as 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The fatality rate is a low 0.1 percent.

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