The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Potentially deadly toadfish in Maltese waters: Egypt does not take offer of EU assistance

Sunday, 19 February 2017, 09:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

Although the silver-cheeked toadfish, which is potentially deadly if consumed, is believed to have entered the Mediterranean through Egypt’s Suez Canal, the country has not accepted the offer of technical assistance from the European Commission to address the issue.

Two of the species have been caught in Maltese waters, one last December and another in 2015, causing concern that the species may be consumed if caught by amateur fishermen.

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According to Prof. Alan Deidun, coordinator of the Spot the Alien Fish campaign, the finds are significant since this species of puffer fish is an invasive alien which produces one of the most potent marine toxins known – TTX (tetrodotoxin) – which paralyses parts of the nervous system and the diaphragm, and for which no known antitoxin exists.

The species first entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in 2003 and is known as a Lessepsian migrant.

It is imperative that the species is not eaten in any way since this could invariably lead to hospitalisation or even death.

Regions like Sicily, Tunisia and Cyprus have even put up seaside boards with similar warnings about the fish. The species is also known to have a considerable impact on fisheries by virtue of its invasive character, and is only processed for culinary purposes by licensed Fugu chefs in China and Taiwan.

In an answer to a European Parliamentary question this week, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said, “The Commission is in regular contact with the Egyptian authorities in the framework of the EU-Egypt dialogue governed by the EU-Egypt Association Agreement and has raised its concerns regarding the potential for Lessepsian migration of invasive alien species with them on several occasions.

“The EU has offered technical assistance to address the issue and to date Egypt has not taken this offer.”

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