Large Spanish mackerel off the menu

Coffs Harbour Fisherman's Coop seafood manager Shane Geary with a legal mackerel which tips the scales at less than 10kg. Photo: Rob Wright
Coffs Harbour Fisherman's Coop seafood manager Shane Geary with a legal mackerel which tips the scales at less than 10kg. Photo: Rob Wright Rob Wright

THE seafood industry has taken swift action to stop fish containing ciguatera being placed on sale.

In light of recent ciguatera poisonings at Macksville, Evans Head and on the Gold Coast, the NSW Food Authority has issued a public health warning against the consumption of Spanish mackerel that are more than 10-kilograms in weight.

More common in Queensland, poisonings have been recorded in New South Wales waters in recent months as pelagic mackerel schools follow warm currents south.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Coop Seafood Manager Shane Geary said the commercial industry has strict guidelines in place to safeguard the sale of Spanish mackerel.

"We work in compliance with Sydney Fish Market protocols whereby we no longer accept mackerel that are over 10-kilograms in weight," Mr Geary said.

"This prevents the chance of ciguatera poisoning based on scientific research."

Previously the Sydney Fish Market would accept mackerel more than 10-kilograms in weight when caught south of Cape Byron, but that's no longer a safe and effective measure in preventing ciguatera cases.


Ciguatera is a form of food poisoning that's caused by eating warm water ocean fin fish, such as mackerel and coral trout that carry the ciguatera poison.

The toxin is produced by a tiny organism called a dinoflagellate, which attaches itself to algae growing on warm water reefs.

Ciguatera toxin tends to accumulate in larger predator fish because they eat large amounts of fish that consume the toxin-producing algae.

Ciguatera is harmless to fish, but poisonous to humans.

It is odourless and tasteless and cooking does not destroy the toxin.

The toxin activates voltage-dependent sodium channels causing symptoms in human (and other mammals) gastrointestinal, cardiac, and nerve tissues.

There are about 50,000 reported poisonings worldwide per year and children have more severe symptoms.

Symptoms start one to 24 hours after eating a toxic fish and include:

Tingling and numbness in fingers, toes and the mouth and throat.

Burning sensation or skin pain on the contact of cold water.

Joint and muscle pain

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, fatigue and fainting.

Extreme itchiness often worsened by drinking alcohol and difficulty breathing.

Topics:  coffs harbour fisherman's co-op spanish mackerel

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