An elderly fisherman has caught a fish that fits into the palm of one’s hand but if consumed can result in dire consequences, including death. The fish was caught during a fishing trip outside Ġnejna Bay and is an alien species and the campaign “spot the alien fish” appealed that anybody catching such a fish should not consume it and should report having caught it.
Mikiel Caruana is 82 but everyday takes to his boat in Ġnejna Bay and spends the day fishing, accompanied by his wife. Recently he was some way out of the bay fishing with a rod in the area known as the Imgħarraq Reef when he caught a fish that immediately raised his concerns.
Mikiel said that when he returned to land he conferred with other anglers who were more experienced than himself and some said go ahead and eat it. However, when he returned home he told his wife not to cook the fish until he ascertained what kind of fish it was. He rang the fish market and described it and they came and collected it and tested it and pronounced it to be poisonous.
This was the second time he has caught such a species of fish which is known as a silver cheeked toed fish. He had caught the same species of fish three years ago, but a larger one that weighed three kilos. In fact he had the fish preserved and mounted.
Maritime biology expert and Ocean Ambassador Alan Deidun said the fish comes from the Indian and Pacific Oceans and probably enters the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, probably following merchant ships and also because of the warmer sea temperatures in the Mediterranean. He said that making contact with the fish is not dangerous but its flesh contains chemical toxics that can cause serious consequences as has happened in recent months in Malta’s neighbouring countries.
Deidun said consumption can lead to body numbness and cause loss of sensation in legs and arms and in extreme cases can be fatal because it causes the paralysis of the respiratory system. He said this is not a case of overreaction as there have recently been cases in Tunisia and in Egypt.
Professor Deidun expressed concern as to the small size of the fish caught by Mikiel because this can be eaten by other larger fish that are then consumed by the public and produce the same toxic effect.
He said that although there is not enough evidence at hand he is also concerned because the fish may be breeding in our surrounding waters. People have now been warned not to consume this fish but other species consumed regularly such as the octopus eat such fish and although it does not affect them, when they are consumed toxic results may occur. This has in fact happened because two persons had to be taken for treatment in the ITU.
Professor Deidun appealed that anybody coming across such a fish should report it through the mobile app “spot the alien fish”.