Those who are fond of fishing and love to feast on what the sea gives, should open their eyes wide and pay close attention to the photography of this fish. It is the Lagocephalus sceleratus (scientific name for the silvery pufferfish), which has been invading the Mediterranean recently. Be careful, because its meat, if eaten (even cooked) can have deadly effects.
According to the
Oceanus Research Group
this fish “ranks among the worst invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea, with a significant impact on the surrounding ecosystem and the fishing industry. Lagocephalus sceleratus is considered a serious risk to consumers; it contains a strong toxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX) , which can be lethal to humans. The effect of this toxin, lingers even after the food is cooked, and tetrodotoxin poisoning is highly risky: it can lead to particularly serious health consequences, up to and including death, which can occur within hours of ingestion.”
WHERE IT CAME FROM AND WHERE IT WAS SPOTTED
It is an alien species in our Mediterranean Sea: it comes from the Indo-Pacific Ocean and seems to have reached our shores through the Suez Canal According to this research group, the presence of Lagocephalus sceleratus is to be considered certain in the waters of Greece (Dodecanese, Crete and Cyclades), Cyprus, Israel. In Italy, too, there have been some reports in the port of Palinuro (Salerno), Monopoli and Capo Peloro (Messina).
The valuable work of the Oceanus Research Group provided a detailed description of this animal:“It has an oblong, fusiform body, covered with smooth skin without plates or scuds, but equipped with short spines arranged in longitudinal series in the ventral region, which is swollen and pleated in resting attitude. The lateral line is marked and divided into branches surrounding the orbit and transverse branches, which either join the lateral line or thin out toward the ventral area.
The robust head has medium-sized round eyes and tiny nasal openings. The mouth is small and the teeth are combined into two upper and two lower dental plates. May ingest water or air. It has a single dorsal fin that is very far back and has 13-16 rays. The anal is symmetrical to the dorsal and has 11-13 rays. The caudal (15 rays) has a hollow posterior margin and the lower lobe longer than the posterior one. The pectorals are somewhat robust and have 14-16 rays.
Ventrals are absent. Body color is slate or bluish gray on the back, milky white in the belly. Juvenile specimens have scattered black speckles in the thorny area. It is a pelagic species that in its juvenile stage is stationed near river estuaries and as an adult prefers tropical or warm waters, at depths between 10 and 100 m, but can descend even beyond 450m. Mostly it moves by currents. If threatened, it swells by ingesting air or water, which it retains by contracting the sphincters of the pylorus and esophagus and in such a way that the stomach swells until it takes on a ball-like conformation. It feeds on both detritus and animal organisms (crustaceans and mollusks). It reaches 60 cm in total length.”
THE KILLER TOXIN
Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin found in some species of the family Tetraodontidae (pufferfish or fugu). It is an amino hydroxy quinazoline compound. In species some “pufferfish,” toxicity is generally high in the liver and ovary, while in freshwater species, toxicity is highest in the skin. TTX is mainly produced by marine bacteria; pufferfish accumulate TTX through the food chain. lTTX is one of the most potent toxins known to have paralyzing action on muscles.
According to the regulation, the Ministry’s website states, “food business operators are obliged to ensure compliance with safety requirements for fishery products placed on the market and not to place on the market fish species belonging to the families Tetraodontidae, Molidae, Diodontidae and Canthigasteridae as they contain toxins harmful to human health.”