Our oceans offer a promising role in alleviating hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and disease burden by providing food, nutrition, and livelihoods to billions of people. Yet, ciguatera fish poisoning, the most common non-bacterial seafood borne disease, is a key impediment that poses a serious human health threat. Ciguatera, which originates from dinoflagellates that live in coral reef systems, causes debilitating neurological, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal symptoms. It is responsible for fishing restrictions across the globe.   

In this project, an expert team of coral reef, public health, and social science researchers aims to investigate the relationship between coral reef health, social systems, ciguatera outbreaks, and human health consequences — in collaboration with the government of Kiribati. The Republic of Kiribati is a small island developing state that depends on seafood for local livelihood and sustenance, and is among the most vulnerable nations to ciguatera outbreaks and associated fishery restrictions. The team strives to provide tangible solutions to prevent ciguatera outbreaks, while bolstering access to safe seafood.  

Our research is an important first step to understand and promote management strategies that protect current and future generations that rely on seafood for nourishment, livelihoods, and cultural practices.

Co-Principal Investigator Christopher Knight

“In some ways, it’s become accepted that living in regions, such as the tropics, come with inherent risks like exposure to ciguatera fish poisoning,” said Co-PI Christopher Knight. “We believe it’s possible to alleviate that risk by partnering with the Kiribati Government to investigate the social and ecological drivers of ciguatera and their implications for human health. Our research is an important first step to understand and promote management strategies that protect current and future generations that rely on seafood for nourishment, livelihoods, and cultural practices.”

Primary Investigators:  Dr. Fiorenza Micheli, Christopher Knight, Dr. Jacob Eurich, Dr. Christopher Golden, Dr. Larry Crowder  

Funder: Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Photo by Shaun Low on Unsplash