Ciguatera fish poisoning is a threat to public health and fish trade of commercially important reef fishes. Thus, scientists from the Department of Agriculture – National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) explored whether our reef fishes (commonly called isdang bato) contain toxins.

What is Ciguatera fish poisoning? It is a form of poisoning primarily caused by ingesting or eating reef fishes that are contaminated with ciguatoxins (CTX), a poison produced by the Gambierdiscus species. Ciguatoxic reef fishes include the barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), parrotfish (Scarus quoyi), rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus), grouper (Ephinephelus merra and Variola albimarginata), snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), and emperor fish Lethrinus lentjan.

Based on the data derived from fish samples taken from three sampling sites – Carles, iloilo; Daangbantayan, Cebu; and Cajidiocan, Romblon, DA-NFRDI gathered the following results: 4.46% of the total reef fish samples were positive for ciguatoxins; fish toxin occurrence was found to be site-specific, that is, geographical conditions affect the frequency of toxic samples; and, fish weight is not a good predictor of fish toxicity.