Ciguatera is a form of seafood poisoning caused by natural toxins that can be found in certain marine fish from specific tropical reef waters. The toxins are formed by microplankton and accumulate in the food chain. In the Caribbean region, the fish associated most with ciguatera are: amberjacks, other jacks, moray eels, and barracuda. Other fish that have been associated with ciguatera are: hogfish, scorpion fish, certain triggerfish, some snappers, and groupers.
Cigua toxic fish cannot be detected by appearance, taste, or smell. Raw and cooked whole fish, fillets, or parts have no signs of spoilage or discoloration. The toxins cannot be completely destroyed or removed by cooking or freezing.
Selecting smaller fish, which are likely to accumulate less toxin, offers some guidance. Large fish of any tropical species from Caribbean reef zones should be avoided. Also, barracuda is a reef fish eater that is not recommended for consumption.
Only patronize reputable dealers and restaurants when purchasing fish occurring in tropical reef waters. Recreational fishermen should exercise caution in areas of concern for particular tropical fish.
Marine/Sea Grant Agent
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