Ciguatera fish poisoning: Incidence, health costs and risk perception on Moorea Island (Society archipelago, French Polynesia).Harmful Algae. 2016 12; 60:1-10.HA
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) is a non-bacterial seafood poisoning well characterized in the remote archipelagos of French Polynesia, yet poorly documented in the Society archipelago, most notably on Moorea, the second most populated island in French Polynesia, which counts a high proportion of fishermen fishing on a regular basis. To address this knowledge gap, a holistic study of the ciguatera issue was conducted on Moorea. First, ciguatera risk was analysed in terms of incidence rate, fish species most commonly involved and risk stratification in Moorea lagoon based on 2007-2013 epidemiological data. A mean incidence rate of 8 cases per 10,000 inhabitants for the study period and an average under-reporting rate of 54% were found. Taking into account hospitalization and medication fees, and loss of productive days, the health-related costs due to CFP were estimated to be USD $1613 and $749 for each reported and unreported case, respectively, with an overall cost of USD $241,847 for the study period. Comparison of the present status of CFP on Moorea with a risk map established in the late 1970's showed that the spatial distribution of the risk has stayed relatively stable in time, with the north shore of the island remaining the most prone to ciguatera. Evaluation of the current knowledge on CFP among different populations groups, i.e. fishermen, residents and visitors, was also conducted through direct and indirect interviews. About half of the fishermen interviewed were actually able to identify risky fishing areas. While, overall, the CFP risk perception in the fishing community of Moorea seemed accurate, although not scientifically complete, it was sufficient for the safe practice of their fishing activities. This may be due in part to adaptive responses adopted by 36% of the fishermen interviewed, such as the avoidance of either high-risk fishing sites or toxic species. At the residents and visitors' level, the study points out a striking lack of awareness of the CFP issue among visitors, as compared to local residents. Indeed, less than 25% of Moorea visitors vs. an average of 98% in residents were aware of CFP or of its presence on the island. Interestingly, evaluation of the fish consumption preferences showed that 70% of visitors do not consume lagoon fish during their stay, not for fear of CFP, but mainly due to the lack of availability of these species in recreational facilities or because they have nutritional preference for pelagic fish. This lack of awareness, along with the report by several CFP patients of the consumption of fish species yet banned for sale, stress the need for improved communication efforts on this critical issue among both residents and visitors on Moorea. The implementation of a public outreach strategy is proposed, based on both existing information networks and low-cost communication actions through information displays at various strategic locations, e.g. Tahiti-Faa'a international airport, the ferry boat station, recreational facilities, as well as the major trading points on Moorea Island.