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Beware the Lionfish – UVI Study Finds Ciguatera

Aldeth Lewin | Virgin Islands Daily News   in  ·
April 23, 2015

ST. THOMAS – A newly published study by researchers at the University of the Virgin Islands finds that the lionfish that live in territorial waters can contain the ciguatera toxin that causes fish poisoning.

Lionfish are an invasive species from the Pacific that have no natural predators in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. They are voracious eaters and consume high numbers of reef fish.

The exploding population of lionfish in the region has led to a local campaign to kill as many lionfish as possible to protect the reefs.

As part of that campaign, many people have begun to eat lionfish, and it is even served on the menus in some local restaurants.

“While this could represent a great economic opportunity in local communities as an artisanal fishery, lionfish also pose a potential human health hazard as a vector for ciguatera fish poisoning in endemic regions such as the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Bernard Castillo, UVI assistant professor of chemistry, said in a written statement. “Ciguatera fish poisoning is a leading cause of seafood-borne illness and is estimated to cause up to 500,000 illnesses annually.”

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