Welcome to Project CaribCATCH

Project CaribCATCH seeks to safeguard ocean reef health, local fishing economies, and the public health of people who live in the Caribbean and who eat reef fish.

Do you or someone you know have FISH POISONING?
If so, please contact Margaret Abbott at 340-626-1698 to participate in an important research study. To learn more, please see the information for Patients.

St. Thomas Island Telephone Survey Ongoing

Researchers are calling citizens of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, about whether they've experienced symptoms due to fish poisoning, specifically from ciguatera.

Project CaribCATCH seeks to safeguard coral reef health, local fishing economies, and the public health of people who live in the Caribbean and who eat reef fish. Healthy ocean reefs are a vital element of life on St. Thomas Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fishermen depend on fish harvests to sustain their livelihoods, and citizens depend on the catches to sustain their health. Scientists and physicians from five major institutions, led by the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) and including the University of the Virgin Islands, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Maryland, Florida State University, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - working together with the Schneider Regional Medical Center and the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association - seek to keep the coral reefs and the food sources they yield safe for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This project focuses on the study and prevention of the human poisoning syndrome known as ciguatera fish poisoning. Ciguatera is caused by naturally occurring toxins known as ciguatoxins that are produced by certain microscopic algae found on coral reefs. These microalgae are inadvertently consumed by reef fishes and subsequently accumulated in the coral reef food chain. Humans can be poisoned after consuming toxic fish. Ciguatera poisonings occur all over tropical areas of the world, and although this phenomenon has been well studied in the Pacific Ocean, data regarding ciguatera in the Caribbean are lacking.

CaribCATCH is designed to investigate the environmental factors that allow ciguatoxin-producing algae to live in reef communities, and to monitor instances of ciguatera poisonings in people on St. Thomas. We intend to use what we learn to help safeguard the Caribbean's reefs and fresh-caught fish.