Is the fugu puffer being eaten to extinction?


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Japan's love of fugu is driving at least one of the species used in the dish towards extinction.

The demand for the Chinese pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis), one of the four main species used in the popular and expensive fugu food dish, is so high that it has now been listed by the IUCN on its Red List as critically endangered.

Fugu is prepared by licensed chefs who have been specially trained in preparing and cooking the poisonous fish. The tetrodotoxin stored within the puffer's organs is 1,200 times stronger than cyanide, with one fish capable of killing around 30 adults.

The dish has been responsible for many deaths over the years when prepared at home by those lacking the experience and training to cook it properly.

Symptoms of tetradotoxin poisoning can occur anything from 15 minutes to several hours later and include numbness, nausea, vomiting, extreme stomach pains and sometimes paralysis and death. There is no known antidote to tetradotoxin poisoning.

The IUCN states that the global population of T. chinensis is estimated to have declined by over 99.99% in the last 40 years.