Hey everyone, I’d like to bring up the topic of Ciguatera, a dangerous type of fish poisoning found here in Hawaii and many other parts of the tropics across the world. Ciguatera stems from a particular dinoflaggelate (a small microbe) who calls coral reefs it’s home. This organism is eaten by many herbivores on the reef, and through a process called bioaccumulation, ends up in high concentrations in larger reef-dwelling animals. The problem occurs because many people like to eat large reef dwelling gamefish, such as the Ulua or giant trevally. Eating large specimens of these fish is considered extremely dangerous, as ciguatera cannot be cooked out and ingesting it can land someone in the hospital for months or even years. Although certain species are more probable to carry the disease than others, any fish on the reef is capable of having the disease, making eating many Hawaiian fish like a twisted lottery.
Since I am an avid spear fishermen and traveller, I have heard many tales and stories about this disease. A friend on Kauai told me it hospitalized a teacher of his for two years. A boat captain I met on our 301L ocean cruise fieldtrip told me he believed it’s responsible for the decline of Hawaiian Monk seals, as seal declines and Ciguatera arrived in the same year, 1958. A fishermen in Puerto Rico even told me the flower of a specific mangrove, if made into a tea, can cure the disease, a phenomenon currently undocumented by medicine or science.
So my question: does anyone here have any experience with ciguatera? Has anyone encountered the disease? Or known a family member who has? The University of Hawaii is the global capital of ciguatera research, and has even developed a prototype test kit. That along with the fact that this disease is so prominent here in Hawaii should make Ciguatera poisoning hit close to home.
So go ahead… share.
- Kyle Jurow