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Ciguatera Poisoning

If fishing, be very careful which fish you choose to eat as Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) produces very serious gastro-intestinal and neurological pathologies, with no known cure.

As CFP is present in reef fish around the British Virgin Islands, we strongly recommend sportsmen practice catch and release, unless accompanied by a knowledgeable fishing guide with broad local knowledge.

If you really want to fish for your dinner, consider purchasing a Cigua-Check Kit online and bring it with you. Unfortunately, the fish must be dead before testing. The kit will give you the test results within 50 minutes. If the test is positive, the nearest restaurant would be a safe bet. If they are serving Baracuda or any other reef fish, ask if they have tested the fish before you order. If they haven't tested the fish, take a pass.

The following fish are known to carry Ciguatera Toxin:

Snapper, Grouper, Barracuda, Parrotfish, Jacks, Mackerel, Sea Bass and eels. There are of course areas, which have members of these species, that are Ciguatera free, however, you must KNOW where those spots are ... and that is why a guide is a good idea.

There have been no reported cases of Ciguatera in Tuna, Dolphin or Wahoo and all are considered quite safe to eat.

CFP symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • General Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Increased or Decreased Heart Rate
  • Rarely - Paralysis & Coma
  • Headache
  • Muscular Pain
  • Metallic Taste in the Mouth
  • Tooth Pain
  • Numbness
  • Temperature Reversal (hot feels cold)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Rarely - Respiratory Failure & Death

If symptoms of Ciguatera Poisoning begin to appear, see a doctor immediately. There is no cure for CFP but your diagnosis should be confirmed nonetheless. Depending upon the severity of your case, symptoms may only last a matter of days but can last several months and in very severe cases, sometimes years.

Regardless of the duration the symptoms last, CFP is always very unpleasant and quite debilitating. I have known three people who came down with it here in the BVI and happily, they survived. Though they didn't die, all three said there were times they wanted to!

One fellow reported that it took him a full year to feel well again and he is a relatively young man. I'm told the older you are, the harder it hits you.

Last updated: Jan 5th 2015
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