Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Hawaii
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Hawaii Project

How will changing reefscapes affect the prevalence of ciguatera on Hawaiian reefs?

August 2020 - August 2022


Participating Agencies

  • Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center Consortiuum, University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • U.S. Fish and Willdife Service

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is caused by consumption of reef fishes containing toxins produced by epiphytic dinoflagellates in the genus Gambierdiscus. Anthropogenic climate change and alteration of reef fish assemblages have the potential to increase the abundance and range of Gambierdiscus spp. However, it is not clear how the resulting changes to reef ecosystems may interact to influence the prevalence of ciguatoxic fishes and thus the risk of CFP posed to local communities dependent upon these fisheries. Therefore, the overall goal of the proposed study is to begin to disentangle the complex relationship between the effects of anthropogenic climate change, fishing pressure on herbivorous reef fishes, and the prevalence of ciguatoxic fishes. Therefore, the primary objective of this proposed study is to assess the prevalence of ciguatoxins in reef fishes along a disturbance gradient created by a major coral bleaching event that spans sites inside and outside areas protected from fishing pressure along the west coast of Hawai‘i Island. Secondarily, the degree of temporal stability or seasonality in the prevalence of ciguatoxins in reef fishes over the course of the proposed study will be assessed to the extent possible under the proposed sampling regime.