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New records of the Puffer Fish (Lagocephalus sceleratus) in the Adriatic Sea
This week, the Puffer Fish (Lagocephalus sceleratus) was caught in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea for the fifth time since 2012. Specimens were caught in Dubrovnik-Neretva County and Šibenik-Knin County. Fish poisoning by consumption of the Puffer Fish is extremely serious because it contains Tetradoxin poison (TTX), one of the strongest marine poisons known today. This toxin affects the nervous system and causes paralysis of the diaphragm and there is no antitoxin available.
It is also advised not to touch this fish without safety gloves.
Although its toxicity is well known, it is still used in the preparation of the traditional Fugu dish in China, India and Taiwan. However, only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare the Fugu dish.
The species is native to the tropical Indian and Pacific Ocean, and it entered to Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal in 2003 (as a so called Lessepsian species). The Puffer Fish had rapidly invaded the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea and now expand its range to the Western Mediterranean. It is capable of inflating its body by swallowing water in order to appear larger to predators. It can reach 110 cm and weight up to 7 kg. The Puffer Fish has a high reproductive rate and is a voracious predator. It causes significant negative impact to the fisheries in Mediterranean. In Cyprus, Turkey and Greece the destruction of nets due to entangling or to predation by Lagocephalus sceleratus on already entangled fish is common. In some parts of the East Mediterranean Basin it was found to rank among the 10 most dominant species in terms of biomass.
Some other species from Tetraodontidae family were also found in the Adriatic Sea. In 2004 a Lagocephalus lagocephalus lagocephalus was recorded near Dubrovnik. Another species from the family Tetraodontidae, Lagocephalus spadiceus is also present in the Mediterranean, so we can expect to find this species too. None of these species have established their populations in the Adriatic Sea. However, considering the biology of these species, their good adaptability to new environments and rapid expansion, these species represent a serious threat to the Adriatic Sea fisheries. Moreover, these species are competitors for food resources and habitats with native fish species.