Copper fish AKA Poisson Cuivre in Haiti - Tips

Ciguatera, which goes by the catch-all label of Copper Fish, make their home in tropical climates such as Haiti. A poisonous form of algae, ciguatera has been found in 400-plus types of fish living in waters near reefs. The ciguatera algae form on coral reefs, as well as seaweed and other kinds of benign algae. Small fish who feed on these plants ingest ciguatera, made up of several strains of toxins: ciguatoxin, maitotoxin, scaritoxin, and palytoxin. Ciguatera was first recognized as a dangerous toxin in 1774.


What happens once the plant-feeding fish ingest the toxins, they then become food for larger flesh-eating fish until it reaches the apex of the food chain in bigger fish: moray eels, groupers, trigger fishes, and barracudas. These are the fish caught, brought to market, and that end up on a family's table. The problem with ciguatoxin is that it has no odor, taste, and cannot by contaminated by the usual cooking methods.

Scientists have tried unsuccessfully to find clusters of ciguatoxin in fish samples under clinical testing, some of which include methods to discover the algae through florescence imaging, and other types of lab testing. In another form of testing, marine-life amateurs take a silver coin and insert it beneath the scales of a fish, believed to be harboring ciguatoxin. When removed from the scales, a blackened coin signifies ciguatoxin is present. However, this method is not considered scientifically accurate. Ciguatera toxins can also be found in salmons at fish farms.

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