‘Hunting campaign’ proposed as solution to toadfish infestation in Turkey’s seas
Some experts suggest organizing a massive hunting campaign against extremely poisonous toadfish that have recently been infesting Turkey’s seas. Fishermen have already been affected by the infestation but vacationers might also be at risk.
The species is common in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean, however it has reached the eastern Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal.
Their population grows rapidly in the Mediterranean because other species do not feed on toadfish.
There are some 191 kinds of toadfish in the world and eight of them have already been spotted in Turkey.
It is extremely poisonous because it contains tetrodotoxin for which there is no antidote.
The fish is toxic since it feeds on bacteria that contain the toxin, which causes paralysis of voluntary muscles and might cause the victim to stop breathing or induce heart failure.
Toadfish, feeding on shrimp, squid, octopus and other fish in large numbers, cause big problems for fishermen in various ways.
They find little fish to catch where toadfish herds invade. Toadfish also eat the fish fishermen have caught and tear apart their fishnets.
Vahdet Ünal from the faculty of aquaculture at Ege University has calculated that the damage caused by toadfish exceeded 5 million euros in 2013 from 2 million euros in 2011.
“The problems caused by toadfish must be considered a natural disaster,” said Ünal, adding that this species tears fishermen’s fingers off and bites people in the sea.
“As the sea water gets warmer in summer, the toadfish population might grow along the seashores and more of these sorts of incidents could happen,” Ünal warned, proposing launching a “hunting campaign” against those dangerous species.
It is forbidden to take those fish to land or to sell them since they are poisonous, but not everyone observes those restrictions.
Sold at fish market
Cemal Turan from Iskenderun Technical University’s marine sciences and technologies department said he had seen toadfish sold at fish markets.
“They peel its skin off, they cut tenderloins out of the fish and sell it as if it was the tenderloin of grouper or some other fish,” Turan said.
It has been suggested that toadfish, however, could have some economic benefits.
“A company in Canada is carrying out research to see if the toxin those fish contain could be used as raw material in painkillers,” said İnci Tüney Kızılkaya at the biology department at Ege University.
“With permission granted by authorities, some fishermen could exclusively focus on growing toadfish.
The toxin could be extracted from the fish at special facilities and then exported as raw material, or research could be carried out to identify other possible use for the toxin,” Kızılkaya added.