By Seraj Essul.
Tripoli, 10 May 2013:
Now the breeding season has started for the Rabbitfish, a poisonous non-native species of fish found . . .[restrict]in Libyan waters, the government is stepping up its campaign to alert the public to the dangers of eating the sea creature.
Rabbitfish contain a poison that, when ingested, lowers the blood pressure and can result in paralysis or even death within a matter of five hours. “There are certain times of the year you can eat it,” a researcher for the Libya Association for Marine Science, Daw Haddoud, told the Libya Herald, “but it is at its most poisonous during its breeding season.”
The fish will mate until the end of June. During this time, said Haddoud, his association, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, is taking an awareness-raising campaign to all settlements along the length of the coast.
The rabbitfish, so called because of its large rabbit-like front teeth, was first spotted in Libyan waters in 2008. A spokesman for the Department of Marine Resources, Ali Aljurnazi, told the Libya Herald that the fish is believed to have been brought to the country’s coast in the wake of boats from the Red Sea.
At first it was only a problem in the east of the country but, he explained, because it has bred successfully in Libyan waters, it is increasingly being spotted along the length if the coast.
“Four months ago it reached Zuwara and there have also been a few sightings in Tunisia,” said Haddoud.
A previous poster and leaflet campaign alerted fishermen in the east to the dangers of the fish but now the Department of Marine Resources, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, has stepped up its campaign. Under the motto: “Beware this fish: don’t sell it, don’t buy it,” it is now targeting fish sellers and consumers as well as fishermen along the coast of Libya.
“Some Libyan fishermen in the west of the country don’t even know about this fish,” Habboud said, “they don’t know that it is poisonous.”
As yet, no-one appears to have been affected, although there have been several false alarms over suspected cases of poisoning. “Some were reported in Derna so we went there and checked,” Aljurnazi said, “but we didn’t find any confirmed cases of poisoning.”
Possible cases have also been reported in Zuitina and Ajdabia but, according to Haddoud, these too proved to be false alarms. [/restrict]