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Old 21-08-2013, 18:49   #1
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Ciguatera Poisoning in the Caribbean

My friend came across an article about poisoning in tropical fish that feed in reef areas. Some of the most infected are predatory fish like the barracuda and the potency grows as it travels up the food chain. In other words, bigger and older fish that feed off of reef fish are the most potent.

My friend and I will be getting a sail boat soon and will be cruising and living aboard in the Caribbean starting with the Florida Keys, then to the Bahamas, and eventually the BVI. We plan on doing a lot of fishing on a daily basis and this is some cause for concern.

Has anyone had any experience with this? What do you avid sea fisherman avoid during your fishing? What's safe?

I have read some recommendations are to only stick to fish that are less than 6lbs. I hear tuna is pretty much unaffected but I was looking forward to eating any of the normal fish we caught: cod, mahi, tuna, snapper, etc. But it appears that some of those are potential hazards.

The warnings are for anywhere in tropical regions including hawaii, tazmania and australia. But it seems the focus of one of the articles was near the USVI.

References:

Ciguatera - Something Fishy
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning: Treatment, Prevention and Management
http://www.si.edu/marinescience/pdf/SCMS_Testeretal.pdf
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Old 22-08-2013, 00:11   #2
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

Pelagic fish, those you catch out in the deep blue ocean aren't contaminated with ciguatera, Ahi, Mahi Mahi, Ono, Aku, Marlin, Sword Fish, etc. The toxin apparently builds up as you go up the food chain on the reef. The biggest predators like Barracuda are usually the worst as well as the bigger fish in a species. Unfortunately, no guarantees, however. Locals aren't really good sources of knowledge about what fish are safe. They can tell you if ciguatera is prevalent in the area, however.

We knew a couple who went cruising. She was a public health PhD candidate and got a 5 figure grant to study ciquatera in the Marquesas. They were very successful in studying the disease first hand. They got it twice in a couple of months. FWIW, the Marquesas seem to be the most heavily infected islands. It was first reported there by the Duke de Marquesas who first discovered the Islands in the 16th century. We did not spearfish or eat any of the local reef fish while there. One local family we hung out with a lot caught it really bad, Mom, Dad, Kids, Dogs, Cats, everything. Nothing more pathetic than a dog with ciguatera poisoning.

One thing to definitely be wary of is fish from around an area where the bottom has been disturbed. When they built the breakwater and dredged Kawaihae Harbor here on the Big Island in the '60s, there was a ciquatera outbreak that lasted for a decade or more.

The Tuamotus a few hundred miles away from the Marquesas didn't seem to have any ciguatera. Tahiti and the Isles Sous Le Vent supposedly had some ciguatera but we didn't see any evidence of it. Supposedly one side of a pass through the reef could have ciquatera while the other side didn't. The reefs were pretty much fished out so didn't spear any fish on our own. Did buy fish from the locals and at the market with no ill effects.
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Old 22-08-2013, 02:50   #3
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Have always heard it is carried mainly by colorful reef fish and those that feed on them cudas etc. Cases from Pelagic fish, tuna dolphin wahoo , even even non pelagic , grouper and snapper etc are rare.
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Old 22-08-2013, 03:50   #4
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Mate of mine lived in the Caribbean for about 10 years and he reckons the best way to tell is to put some of the fish, before you cook it, on the ground. If the ants eat it all good, if they don't touch it, don't eat it. Not sure myself, but he told me that's what the locals used to do, and he never suffered from it.
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Old 22-08-2013, 04:12   #5
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

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Originally Posted by Catalpa1 View Post
Mate of mine lived in the Caribbean for about 10 years and he reckons the best way to tell is to put some of the fish, before you cook it, on the ground. If the ants eat it all good, if they don't touch it, don't eat it. Not sure myself, but he told me that's what the locals used to do, and he never suffered from it.
met a polynesian islander in the tuamotos,and i asked him the same question about what they do about ciguetera......his reply was they feed it to the children first!!!!
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Old 22-08-2013, 04:50   #6
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

if you google ciguatera you will find pictures of the most common carriers. Mainly just stay away from large reef predators. Even large groupers have been known to carry it, and a lot of jacks.
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Old 22-08-2013, 05:55   #7
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

it is claimed that parrotfish that actually eat coral are the worst carriers of this neurotoxin and I (and crew) have always stayed away from them .Barracudas too ,especially if large, are to be eschewed but I have eaten a number of smaller ones without ill effects .However it is a cumulative poison that could get you over time and the nerve damage sounds scary so I don't think I would be so caviler with future meals. Have eaten quite a few grouper but never was so lucky (or unlucky?) to catch a really large one but they are so tasty that it would be hard to resist.

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Old 22-08-2013, 06:29   #8
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pirate Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

And lots of previous discussions here on CF, Recall one about test kits.

I've eaten small cudas without trouble in the upper Keys. The really tasty cudas are the ones with the long horizontal stripe.
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Old 22-08-2013, 06:44   #9
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

we just competed a round trip of the caribbean -- did both sides over 3 years or so -- our general rule was never eat a barracuda - i don't care how big or small - we know some cruisers did eat them but i guess i am just an old guy who wants to get older -

we did shoot a number of fish on the reefs in the western carib in the eastern carib getting to use a spear gun is not good as the locals frown on it - they can use them be we can not - but did catch some fish -

we did buy some fish from fishermen but never a barracuda and if they were cooking them and offered us some we always politely declined

just our thoughts and opinions
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Old 22-08-2013, 06:54   #10
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Ask the locals. If there are problems w ciguatera there then avoid the likely carriers.

The locals eat Cudda in Belize, and so do I, never a problem that I know about. But I would not eat Cudda in FL, Cuba, Bahamas...plenty of ciguatera in those areas.
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Old 22-08-2013, 08:37   #11
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

Friends in Antigua got it . I dont know what type of fish, but the effects lasted for months. It was almost 4 months before before they could come on deck during the daytime. It made their skin so sensitive that it was very painful for any sunlight to touch them. Really bad thing to catch. _____Grant.
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Old 22-08-2013, 08:51   #12
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

A friend of mine from Trinidad always fed it to the cat first. He kept the cat confined until it's first evacuation. He claimed a dog would die but the cat will just throw it up. Must have worked for him as he is well past his seventies.
All the best,
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Old 22-08-2013, 09:04   #13
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

My sister had it--a really nasty disease for which there is no known treatment or antidote. And in extreme cases the effects can last for years.

I won't eat barracuda or grouper. No problem eating pelagic fish such as dorado or yellow tail.

Understanding the dynamics of the toxicity may help. It begins with herbivorous fish eating toxic dinoflagellates such as Gambierdiscus toxicus, but then it bioaccumulates in tertiary consumers such as triggerfish, snapper, grouper, parrotfish and barracuda. (This is not an exhaustive list!)

Understand that the toxin doesn't just bioaccumulate in fish, it can bioaccumulate in you if you eat a lot of reef fish. The more you eat from the higher trophic levels within the reef food chain, the greater the danger of contracting Ciguatera.

Ciguatoxin is heat resistant, so conventional cooking methods will not detoxify the fish. The only certain way to avoid Ciguatera is to avoid eating reef fish.
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Old 22-08-2013, 09:40   #14
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Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

i have allways wondered if on reefs that are effected are shell fish ,cray fish and crabs also effected?

shell fish and cray fish being herbivorous or filter feeders i would suspect are not,but crabs possibly as they are scavengers.

interesting if anybody has first hand knowledge on this aspect?
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Old 22-08-2013, 09:46   #15
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pirate Re: Ciguatera poisoning in the Caribbean

Quote:
Originally Posted by clifford sloan View Post
A friend of mine from Trinidad always fed it to the cat first. He kept the cat confined until it's first evacuation. He claimed a dog would die but the cat will just throw it up. Must have worked for him as he is well past his seventies.
All the best,
Clif
How many cats did he have overall that didn't live long lives?
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