What is the risk of Ciguatera poisoning?
PLEASE NOTE: This is for the fishermen! We had this page up on our old blog site and took it down as it did not specifically pertain to booking crewed charter yachts. I received several requests to put it back as it was used as a reference guide by fisherpeople. Therefore, I have put it back. We have plenty of fish that is perfectly safe to eat, and our crews know where to get it. It is something to be aware of throughout the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.
Ciguatera poisoning British Virgin Islands is a foodborne illness caused by eating certain reef fish with toxins contaminating their flesh.
Ciguatera is initially produced by dinoflagellates such as Gambierdiscus toxicus, which live in tropical and subtropical waters. The Caribbean Sea is one of these locations.
These dinoflagellates adhere to coral, algae, and seaweed, eaten by herbivorous fish, which in turn, are eaten by larger predatory fish.
In this way, the toxins move up the food chain and biomagnify.
Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually followed by neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, paresthesia, numbness, vertigo, and hallucinations.
Severe cases of contaminated fish can also result in cold allodynia, which is the reversing of the sensation of hot and cold. Cold items may feel hot, and hot things may feel cold. Neurological symptoms can persist for months.
Ciguatera poisoning is occasionally misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis.
There is only one way to avoid cases of Ciguatera altogether. Don’t eat tropical reef fish.
There are many reasons a reef can become Ciguatera active, but it always has to do with runoff, damage, or stress to the living reef.
Ciguatera poisoning British Virgin Islands
This page is not meant to scare you, but will help you make decisions when you are curious if you can eat that fish you just caught!
Fish caught to the south of the island chain has to be suspect. Fish caught to the North are usually safe.
What does it all mean in conjunction with this fish list?
The 88 species of fish listed towards the bottom of this page are the most common catches in the Virgin Islands.
Pay close attention to our list if you are fishing in the Sir Francis Drake Channel or on the South Side of the Islands.
If fishing on the north side of the islands, then all fish except Jacks and Barracuda are often eaten without incident.
What would I do?
Follow the guide, regardless of where you are fishing. I would NOT stop fishing, some of your most enjoyable times out on your charter yacht will be hanging on the back deck with a beer in hand at night. Turn on the lights and watch the fish on the bottom. Dangle a line in and see what you catch.
I would never consider eating a fish listed as high risk from anywhere PERIOD.
I would never consider eating a fish listed as a FREQUENT poisoner from the south side or within the Sir Francis Drake channel. However, a smaller specimen from the north side would be dinner.
I would not eat an INFREQUENT poisoner from the south side.
A smaller specimen from the channel or any size from the north side should be ok.
When I say smaller, I mean younger. A fish that grows to 3 feet is still young if 2 feet long. A fish that only grows to 8 inches is not considered small even though it is only 8 inches.
A seldom poisoner from anywhere should be good; however, if I caught a large specimen on the south side, I probably would still not eat it.
Again look at the pictures carefully; for example, the Rock hind and the Red hind look remarkably similar, however, one is seldom, and the other is a frequent ciguatera poisoner.
There are no guarantees; This fish rating is compiled from many years of commercial catches.
Both I and H2O Luxury Yachts give no guarantees and assume zero responsibility.
Similarities of fish species
Many fish species look very similar, look carefully! This page is a work in progress. I will eventually get all the pictures up.
One fish type may be safe, but its very close looking cousin may not. Look at the Dog snapper and the Gray snapper, They look very similar, but they have very different risks.
Horse Eye Jack are regularly caught off the back of the boat throughout the Virgin Islands. It is not uncommon to snag 5 or 6 in an evening.
Great fighters on light gear and make fantastic shark live baits, however, on the top of the list for Ciguatera poisoners.
If you have any interest in either chartering a yacht and doing some fishing or going on a serious fishing charter, then please use our experience to your advantage.
Fish List of Potential Ciguatera poisoning British Virgin Islands
If you know the general fish type, click to jump down the list. Otherwise, scroll down for the pictures of each fish.
General Fish Ciguatera poisoning British Virgin Islands
Great Barracuda is HIGH-RISK
Spotted Scorpionfish are FREQUENT
Queen Triggerfish are FREQUENT
Kingfish is FREQUENT
Needlefish or Houndfish are INFREQUENT
Squirrelfish are INFREQUENT
Little Tunny is INFREQUENT
Atlantic Bonito are INFREQUENT
Porcupine Fish is INFREQUENT
Balloon Fish are INFREQUENT
Southern Stingray is SELDOM
Nurse Shark is SELDOM
Ocean Surgeon Fish are SELDOM
Doctor Fish are SELDOM
Blue Tang is SELDOM
Flounder are SELDOM
Atlantic Spade Fish is SELDOM
Seargent Major is SELDOM
Spotted Drum is SELDOM
Jackknife Fish is SELDOM
SEA BASS AND GROUPERS Ciguatera Risk
Rock hind Fish is FREQUENT
Red Grouper are FREQUENT
Nassau Grouper are SELDOM
Yellowfin Grouper is FREQUENT
Butter (Black) Hamlet Fish is SELDOM
JACK Ciguatera Risk
Greater Amberjack is HIGH-RISK
Horse Eye Jack is HIGH-RISK
Bar Jack is HIGH-RISK
BlackJack is HIGH-RISK
Blue Runner Fish is INFREQUENT
SNAPPER Ciguatera Risk
Blackfin Snapper are FREQUENT
Mutton Snapper are SELDOM
Schoolmaster snapper are FREQUENT
Red Snapper is INFREQUENT
Gray Snapper is INFREQUENT
Dog snapper is HIGH-RISK
Mahogany Snapper are FREQUENT
Lane Snapper is SELDOM CIG
Yellowtail Snapper is SELDOM
Welchman Snapper is SELDOM
Eel Ciguatera Risk
Green Moray Eel is FREQUENT
Spotted eel are FREQUENT
GRUNT Ciguatera Risk
Black Margate are INFREQUENT
Porkfish are INFREQUENT
Margate is INFREQUENT
Tomtate is INFREQUENT
Black Grunt is INFREQUENT
French Grunt are INFREQUENT
Cottonwick Grunt is INFREQUENT
White Grunt is INFREQUENT
Blue Striped Grunt is INFREQUENT
Porgy Ciguatera Risk
Saucer Eyed Porgy is INFREQUENT
Sheepshead Porgy is SELDOM
Pluma Porgy is SELDOM
Goatfish Ciguatera Risk
Yellowtail Goatfish is SELDOM
Spotted Goatfish is SELDOM
Butterfly Fish Ciguatera Risk
Four Eye Butterfly Fish is SELDOM
Reef Butterfly Fish is SELDOM
Banded Butterfly Fish are SELDOM
Angelfish Ciguatera Risk
Blue Angel Fish is SELDOM
Gray Angelfish are SELDOM
French Angelfish are SELDOM
Rock beauty Angelfish are SELDOM
Parrot Fish Ciguatera Risk
Blue Parrotfish are SELDOM
Striped Parrotfish are SELDOM
Princess Parrotfish are SELDOM
Queen Parrotfish are SELDOM
Redband Parrotfish are SELDOM
Red-Tailed Parrotfish are SELDOM
Redfinned Parrotfish are SELDOM
Bucktooth Parrotfish is SELDOM
Stoplight Parrotfish are SELDOM
Hogfish Ciguatera Risk
Pudding Wife is SELDOM
Filefish Ciguatera Risk
Scrawled Filefish is SELDOM
Orange Spotted Filefish is SELDOM
Fringed Filefish is SELDOM
Spotted Trunk Fish Ciguatera Risk
Smooth Trunkfish are INFREQUENT
Honeycomb Cowfish is INFREQUENT
Scrawled Cowfish is INFREQUENT