Ciguatera Project

Interviews, medical records and past research have documented that Ciguatera Fish Poisoning is a common occurrence in the Marshall Islands. Through community consultations and interviews, fish species and toxic areas have been identified but not to the extent of toxicity level and its cause. Medical records document number of admitted patients and symptoms only. In the past few years, Community members have expressed grief concerns regarding the prevalent rates of ciguatera fish poisoning in their atolls to MIMRA. With this being said, the Coastal Fisheries team listed Ciguatera Monitoring as a priority project.

In early 2015, MIMRA joined in as one of the key stakeholders for a few of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) national and regional projects. “The IAEA works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology”.  The aim of these projects is to build capacity within local human resource through analytical capabilities, marine and environmental sampling and laboratory work just to name a few. One of the Regional Project includes, RAS 0706 Harmful Algal Bloom Studies in the Asia-Pacific.

Project Background

Member States (IAEA-MS) of the Asia-Pacific region including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are under threat, round the year, from seafood toxicity caused by marine algae. Marine food is not only a major source of protein for the human beings but also plays an important role in economic growth of the region, and hence this toxicity endangers the public health as well as causes socioeconomic problems. Due to increases in human land-based activities leading to eutrophication, natural events such as typhoons or hurricanes that cause reef destruction, and significant changes in global climate, an increase in frequency and intensity in blooms of harmful algae (HAB) has been recorded in the last decades. In several IAEA Member States of Asia and the Pacific Region, the potentially deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) syndrome is a prevailing public health issue despite implementation of monitoring programmes. With rapid development of tourism and international trade of seafood, this disease has become a potential threat on a global scale. Seafood safety requirements have therefore been proposed for imported fish (e.g., U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance level of 0.01 ng/g CTX in fish), which have the potential to impact economies of MS with an export fisheries market. Considering the facts, the IAEA Board of Governors approved a regional project RAS7026, “Supporting the Use of Receptor Binding Assay to Reduce the Adverse Impacts of Harmful Algal Toxins on Seafood Safety” for the period 2014-2017 to strengthen HAB monitoring capabilities in Asia and the Pacific region through use of the radiological and RBA technique for CFP. This project is additionally supported by extra budgetary funding from the Peaceful Use Initiative of the USA. The project is participated by Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Philippines (as the DTM) in close collaboration with the US-NOAA, ILM and IOC-UNESCO.

“Workshop on Ciguatera Fish Poisoning and Field Monitoring”, Tahiti, French Polynesia, March 2015 (IAEA)

The Workshop on Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) Field Monitoring and the Second Coordination Meeting were held at Institute Louis Malardé, Tahiti, French Polynesia from 02 to 13 March 2015. The first week (02 to 07 March 2015) was dedicated for the workshop on CFP Field Monitoring. The participants and experts were then divided into three subgroups based on research specialization. The groups collectively developed detailed work plans to achieve to objectives of the RAS7026 project: (1) RBA method validation, (2) establishment of effective CFP monitoring strategies, and (3) data management for compilation of shared regional CFP status information.   Output from the subgroups was then shared and discussed by the full membership, modifications incorporated, and the final work plan for RAS7026 accepted.

“Benthic Dinoflagellate Sampling, Identification and Culturing in Marshall Islands”, Majuro RMI, September 2016 (IAEA)
“Ciguatera Monitoring Trip”, Ailinglaplap Atoll, RMI, November 2016 (WB PROP Funds)
Photo Gallery

"Benthic Dinoflagellate Sampling, Identification and Culturing in Marshall Islands", Majuro RMI, September 2016 (IAEA)


“Ciguatera Monitoring Trip”, Ailinglaplap Atoll, RMI, November 2016 (WB PROP Funds)


“Workshop on Ciguatera Fish Poisoning and Field Monitoring”, Tahiti, French Polynesia, March 2015 (IAEA)

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