NOAA: Ciguatera a greater threat as sea temps rise

[USA] The latest news on ciguatera is a NOAA study forecasting that ciguatera poisoning will happen a lot more in fish of the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic coast as climate change pushes sea temperatures up and up from now to the next century.

As for the Caribbean Sea, the study says sea temps already are near the top of the tolerable range for the Gambierdiscus and Fukuyoa algae that make ciguatera happen. If the forecast is correct, still-warmer water could weaken the algae, slightly decreasing the prevalence of Caribbean ciguatera.

On another hand, those algae could spread into the Gulf and up the Atlantic coast where it isn’t too warm for them yet, thus worsening the situation there.

Ciguatoxin algae first contaminate deep-reef corals and seaweeds. Forage fish consume the toxin and are eaten by food fish like snapper, grouper and barracuda. People consume those fish and…ugh. Worldwide, 400-plus species of fish can be contaminated with ciguatoxins.

It might not be so bad if you could see, smell or taste ciguatera and sensibly toss a fish that has it into the garbage. But no: “Contaminated fish have no specific taste, color, or smell and there is no easy method for measuring ciguatoxins,” said NOAA scientist Steve Kibler, the study’s lead author. “However, we can forecast risk based on where and when we are likely to find the algae that produce ciguatoxins.”

Kibler and his team of scientists from NOAA, North Carolina State University and the company Ocean Tester LLC published the report in the journal Ecological Modeling. They took a chance on getting into hot water with the crowd that still believes climate change is a Y2K political hoax.

If there are errors in the study, the computer models may be more likely to blame. They’re running the data from NOAA buoys through 11 global climate models and using forecast temperature changes — maybe accurate, maybe not — to project what rising sea temperatures will do to the toxic algae.

You can read the study’s abstract online, and read the whole thing there if you have a Science Direct membership. Begin here:


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