Ciguatera fish toxicity in French Polynesia: size does not always matter.Toxicon. 2014 Jun; 84:41-50.T
Accumulation of ciguatoxins (CTXs) in tropical reef fish tissues during their life is responsible of the most prevalent human seafood intoxication in the South Pacific called Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP). It has been assumed for a long time that CTXs are transferred and accumulated along the trophic food chain, and consequently that smaller individuals within a given fish species are safer to eat than larger ones. However, the relationship between toxicity and fish size has been studied for a limited number of species only and the conclusions are often contradictory. The toxicity of 856 fishes from 59 different species sampled in six islands in French Polynesia between 2003 and 2011 was assessed by Receptor Binding Assay. Among them, 45 species × island and 32 families × island for which the number of individuals was ≥6 allowed testing the relationship between toxicity and size. Except for six specimens of Lutjanus bohar caught in Fakarava (P < 0.01; R(2) = 0.854), the 44 remaining species × island showed no significant increase of CTXs concentration with fish total length (TL). Moreover, the proportion of toxic individuals decreased significantly for Epinephelus polyphekadion from Fakarava (n = 24; P < 0.05) and Kyphosus cinerascens from Raivavae (n = 29; P < 0.05), while no significant variation was detected for the other 43 species × island. At the family level, only three positive and three negative relationships between size and CTXs concentration were observed among the 32 family × island analyzed. No relationship between the proportion of toxic fish within a family and the relative total length of individuals were observed. The lack of relationship between toxicity and size observed for most of the species and families from the six islands suggests that fish size cannot be used as an efficient predictor of fish toxicity in French Polynesia. These results highlight the need for improving our knowledge about metabolic processes which may play a role in CTXs bio-accumulation and depuration among the different trophic levels of fishes.