IUCN’s MedMIS initiative has allowed the identification of pufferfish individuals in the Adriatic
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), under the MedMIS comprehensive plan to combat invasive species in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean, received new sighting entries of Lagocephalus sceleratus individuals, also known as ‘pufferfish’, an invasive species that is highly toxic to humans.
The protected Marine Area of Karaburun – Sazani Island in Albania was the last site where these specimens have been observed. This is a quite important information that has been recorded by the MedMIS program, since it is the first time where this species has been reported entering the Adriatic from the Mediterranean. So far, pufferfishhave been observed a total of 10 times in MPAs belonging to Mediterranean waters.This was especially the case in Turkey where it was sighted in eight different MPAs, in addition to the MPAs of Zakynthos in Greece and El Kouf in Libya.
Introduction and impacts on the local environment:
Lagocephalus sceleratus is a tropical species native to the Indo-West Pacific. It has recently reached the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. Shortly after its first detection in Turkey, in 2003, its population exploded in many areas around the Mediterranean basin, including Israel, Turkey, Crete, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and possibly threatening to reach Spanish waters.
This species can have serious impacts on the environment because of their voracity and their toxicity. Indeed, pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, which provokes paralysis and may lead to death. It is essential to increase fishermen’s awareness in the affected areas so that they become familiar with their existence and be able to identify them, in order to prevent their sale in markets, which can have unwanted and unexpected consequences.
Furthermore, this exotic fish species is characterized as aggressive in its environment. Indeed, Lagocephalus species are considered as one of the worst invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea and have a significant negative impact on the fishing sector. However, the role of this invasive species in the coastal ecosystem and its effect on local populations is still unknown at this time.
This new sighting is part of the comprehensive MedMIS plan, an online information system designed to keep track of invasive alien species in different Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean, since they are one of the biggest threats to the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem.
Thus, a large number of exotic fish species, mollusks, crustaceans and jellyfish became established in more than 180 marine protected areas distributed among 19 coastal countries. These exotic species threaten to displace the local flora and fauna and could hinder management efforts to maintain or restore their ecological integrity.