CFP is an illness caused by consumption of fish that have accumulated ciguatoxins (CTXs), which are naturally produced by marine microalgae (Gambierdiscus spp), and not degraded by freezing and heating processes. It is well known from Queensland, with more than 1000 cases in the past 15 years, including 2 fatalities, despite only ~20% of cases reported. Around 90 species of fish can be contaminated with CTXs, which accumulate, and are often associated with larger and carnivorous fish. Species of Gambierdiscus may be invasive: internationally, increases in abundance and expansion into new areas have occurred. Our recent work (shown in http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-ciguatera-fish-poisoning-21835) has now found Gambierdiscus spp is present in NSW.
No study has been conducted on the presence of CTXs in fish from NSW, and knowledge about its distribution within Australian waters is poor. The recent illnesses at Scotts Head and Evans Head show that CTX may occur in fish caught in NSW. The NSW Food Authority has advised the public not to eat Spanish Mackerel weighing over 10 kg, based on the Sydney Fish Market management plan, which restricts the sale of fish based on size limits, high-risk species and location where fish were caught. However, no data exist regarding sizes, location and risk from Spanish Mackerel in NSW. Smaller Spanish Mackerel may represent a potential risk. However, these guidelines may be excessively restrictive, as some of the fish discarded may be safe for consumption.
We are now able to quantify marine biotoxins in Sydney using a newly obtained LC-MS, and links with a group of collaborating experts. We propose to undertake a thorough sampling and testing program to determine the presence of CTXs in Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) from NSW, to provide the baseline data necessary for the revision of guidelines for the management of CFP in NSW.