The Science

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The silver-cheeked toadfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus), native to the Indo-Pacific, invaded the Mediterranean Sea in 2003 first from Turkish waters. It has now spread all over the Mediterranean, but is most abundant in the Eastern part. It may be the worst-ever marine invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea due to its many negative impacts.

Firstly, their high TTX poison levels makes them inedible both for humans and most fish. Never, ever try eating this fish! The Japanese art of eating globefish fugu only allows non-poisonous globefish species to be eaten. This species is toxic and not edible even in Japan!

Secondly, they can ‘puff’. Any potential predator has to be able to fit a puffed fish in its throat, or else it could suffocate, and also their spines become erect when they puff, turning them into a mouthful of torture.

Controlling their populations through targeted fishing control is the best way to manage them.

The seas are facing many ongoing other pressures, such as strong fish declines due to overfishing, plastic pollution, global warming, ocean acidification and reduced oxygen. The removal of this invasive species is one very important way we can help the seas, especially native fish, fisheries and

Secondly, they can ‘puff’. Any potential predator has to be able to fit a puffed fish in its throat, or else it could suffocate, and also their spines become erect when they puff, turning them into a mouthful of torture.

They can grow to monstrous sizes of up to 10 kg in the Mediterranean! They consume tons of native species, especially squid, crab and other fish which contributes to the global biodiversity crisis. 

Did you know that invasive species are the number one cause of biodiversity loss?

Recently they started gorging on fish already caught in fishing nets and longlines, causing further economic harm to small-scale fishers by eating their catches, destroying their fishing gear and making them buy new nets.

Since they can ‘puff’, and have spikes that come out when they do, they have very little predation. Would you swallow a toxic porcupine for dinner? Any potential predator has to be able to fit a puffed pufferfish in its throat, or else it could suffocate. Only loggerhead turtles have been found so far eating adult pufferfish. This is really interesting as loggerheads have necks with gnarly teeth inside them.

Why is it such a pest? 

It has high levels of poison- (TTX) in its tissues, that can be fatal to humans if consumed. They can grow to monstrous sizes– up to 10 kg in the Mediterranean. They consume tons of native species, especially squid, crab and other fish. And now they are gorging on fish already caught in fishing nets and longlines, causing further economic hardships to the small-scale fishers by eating their catches, destroying their fishing gear and making them purchase new nets.

They have become very successful in parts of the Mediterranean due to these really cool adaptations:

It has high levels of poison-tetrodotoxin (TTX) in its tissues, which can be fatal to us if consumed. The Japanese art of eating pufferfish fugu only allows non-poisonous pufferfish species to be eaten. This species is toxic and not edible, even in Japan! 

WARNING: Never eat this fish! If you do, it could be your last meal.

Did you know that pufferfish are also commonly known as globefish, blowfish, porcupinefish, and baloonfish? Regardless of what we call them, their detrimental impact on the Mediterranean Sea is undeniable, and the benefits of their control are manifold!

Explore our dedicated research and findings!

The biology and ecology of the invasive silver-cheeked toadfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus), with emphasis on the Eastern Mediterranean. Neobiota, 2021. Read Article

Low Pufferfish and Lionfish Predation in Their Native and Invaded Ranges Suggests Human Control Mechanisms May Be Necessary to Control Their Mediterranean Abundances. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2021. Read Article

The dynamics of maximum lengths for the invasive silver-cheeked toadfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Journal of Marine Science & Engineering, 2022. Read Article

A novel study on using pufferfish skin as sustainable leather: Characterisation, thermal behaviour and sound absorption properties. Journal of the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists, 2022. Read Article

A biological and ecological study of the invasive pufferfish Torquigener hypsolegeneion (Bleeker 1852) [conspecific Torquigener flavimaculosus Hardy & Randall, 1983] in the Eastern Mediterranean. Aquatic Invasions, 2023. Read Article

An in-depth study on the invasive pufferfish- Lagocephalus sceleratus’s biology, trophic ecology, and catchability from southern Turkey, Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Scientia Marina Read Article

Assessment of Human Health Impacts from Invasive Pufferfish (Attacks, Poisonings and Fatalities) across the Eastern Mediterranean Read Article

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