Extremely Poisonous Lagocephalus Fish Terrorize Beach in Greece

lagocephalus Greece
The fish is a recent migrant into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which it reached through the Suez Canal. Credit: Boatfishing.gr

Extremely poisonous toadfish or lagocephalus have appeared on a beach in Crete, Greece spreading panic among beach-goers.

A video posted on social media shows the fish swimming and almost coming out of the sea, despite the human presence.

The species is common in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is a recent migrant into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which it reached through the Suez Canal, and it is spreading towards the western Mediterranean. It has been caught off the coasts of Israel, the south of Turkey, in Cyprus, the south coasts of mainland Greece, Crete, and Rhodes.


📍Αμμουδαρα Αγιος Νικολαος #crete #summervibes #summertime #lagokefalos

♬ LALALALA – Marina Satti

Lagocephalus attacks on bathers in Greece

Lagocephalus attacks on bathers have increased alarmingly in recent years. The president of the professional fishermen of the prefecture of Heraklion, Yiannis Androulakis, emphasizes that these incidents are not isolated.

“There have been too many accidents with lagocephalus. And what we have already told the authorities of the Region of Crete is to inform the world about the fish, because they are aggressive and can appear even in shallow waters,” he says characteristically.

One of the most shocking incidents happened in Sitia, Crete where a child was attacked by a lagocephalus and had to undergo surgery. Several similar incidents have been recorded in other islands, such as in Kalymnos.

“These are the known incidents. I believe there are many more, but they are not made public so as not to damage tourism,” adds Androulakis.

The fishermen of Crete are in despair, as the invasive species have destroyed their gear and significantly reduced their catch. They call on the state and the Region of Crete to act immediately.

“Lagocephalus has literally destroyed fishermen and the marine environment. We need funding to fight this threat,” emphasizes Androulakis.

Similar to other pufferfishes, it is extremely poisonous if eaten because it contains tetrodotoxin in its ovaries, and to a lesser extent in its skin, muscles, and liver, which is what protects the species from voracious predators.

The fish’s bodies become toxic as they eat bacteria that contain the toxin. This deadly substance causes paralysis of the voluntary muscles, which may cause its victims to stop breathing or induce heart failure.

The Mediterranean attracts invasive fish due to warming

The warming of the seawater in the Mediterranean is leading to a proliferation of invasive fish species and jellyfish.

As the sea warms and becomes saltier because of human-induced global heating, fish from tropical latitudes are finding a more welcoming habitat in an area that, at least nominally, is temperate rather than tropical.

Athens University professor of oceanography Serafim Poulos estimated there are already around eight hundred non-native species invading Greek waters.

Related: Large Venomous Jellyfish Spotted off Greece’s Rhodes

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