Infestation of poisonous toadfish concerns locals in Turkish resort town Bodrum
Fishermen in Turkey’s Aegean resort town of Bodrum are anxious over a rapid rise in the population of a poisonous toadfish species, which have reportedly killed two cats.
“It is the first time I have seen such an amount of toadfish,” fisherman Halil Aktaş, 56, has told Doğan News Agency, adding that he had found 20 fish at a time in his net.
“I filled them all in a sack, took them to the bay and buried them,” said Aktaş.
The silver-cheeked toadfish is extremely poisonous if eaten because it contains tetrodotoxin in its ovaries and to a lesser extent, in its skin, muscles and liver. It should not be caught, taken to land or sold, Halit Filiz at the Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University’s Faculty of Aquaculture has said.
“Even touching it is dangerous,” the professor said, adding that the Agriculture Ministry and the directorate of agriculture have launched a project to prevent the reproduction of the fish.
“This is not a fish that is actually known in our waters,” he said, warning citizens not to hold the fish with bare hands and to use gloves instead if necessary, to put them in multiple plastic bags and bury them in a deep hole.
According to locals, two cats have died from eating the fish.
Filiz said the silver-cheeked toadfish is one of the most dangerous species for both human and animals.
“Their population increases very rapidly since even other sea creatures avoid eating them.”
The species is common in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean but has reached the eastern Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal and is now spreading toward the western Mediterranean.
It 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.
The fishermen said the silver-cheeked toadfish was rare up until six years ago, but now they have come across schools of fish that are 50 centimeters long and weigh three kilograms.
Aktaş, also the spokesperson for a local environmentalist organization, said the fish comes from the Indian Ocean.
Hasan Özer, a 68-year-old captain, said his colleagues have been holding meetings to talk about the problem.
“I have been a fisherman here since my childhood but I have never came across such a thing. We know about the fish, but it is very dangerous for those who do not know,” said Özer.
Restaurant manager Nevzat Kanberoğlu, 46, said he has seen toadfish that weigh five kilograms.
“We call them ‘killer fish’ because they attack the other fish with their strong jaws,” said Kanberoğlu.
The water temperature is above the seasonal average, he said, implying this might have also triggered a rise in the population.
“We see this fish everywhere around the Bodrum peninsula. We need to get used to living with this species,” said Kanberoğlu.