Chinese scientists have reported a new method for detecting the presence of cyanide in marine fishes caught for both the aquarium and food trades.
While the aquarium trade is taking every effort to ensure that all marine fishes sold are hand caught using nets, it's possible that some cyanide-caught fish may be slipping through undetected.
Cyanide used to be used to catch a small percentage of marine fish in the 1960s, but its use has always been frowned upon because it damages reefs and can cause fish to die, often weeks after they are exported.
Aquarium groups, such as the Marine Aquarium Council, have been lobbying for many years to minimise the number of fish caught with cyanide that make it into the aquarium trade, and in most countries the process is now illegal.
The problem is that cyanide is difficult, expensive and time consuming to detect. The existing tests may also not be completely specific to cyanide and may not be sensitive enough to spot dodgy fish that have been caught using this barbaric technique.
The new technique, which has been developed by a team of three researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology describes an ultra sensitive method and takes a critical look at the available methods.
For more details see the paper: Mak, KK., Yanase, H. and R. Renneberg (2005) - Cyanide fishing and cyanide detection in coral reef fish using chemical tests and biosensors. Biosens Bioelectron. 2005 Jun 15;20 (12): 2581-2593.