Ciguatera fish poisoning plays an important role in Caribbean marine resource development. Many independent eastern Caribbean island nations rely heavily on marine protein. Current demand in these areas for seafood approaches 775,000 t, a figure greatly in excess of the 200,000 t potential yield, as well as current landings which are near 87,000 t.
Annual incidence of ciguatera fish poisoning may reach nine per thousand residents in Caribbean communities like St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. These high rates affect public health, fishery development, and liability aspects of island life. Distribution of ciguatera in the Caribbean indicates that it is found most frequently north of Martinique. Three areas of "high risk," as well as "high risk" species, are identified. In St. Thomas nearly 50 percent ofthe 84 species in the catch and 56 percent of the total landings by weight bear some risk of intoxication if eaten.