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EU project explores toxic pufferfish for aquaculture feed

January 3, 2024  By Hatchery International staff

A toxic invasive species, pufferfish has been explored for aquaculture feed by the EU-funded LagoMeal project.

LagoMeal brought together a team of experts who used the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to develop a process to deactivate a powerful nerve toxin and turn deadly pufferfish into high-quality fishmeal.

The pufferfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus) is related to the infamous fugu of Japan and is a threat to the environment and fisheries. It damages fishing gear and catches and eats native species. Greek fishers say that the pufferfish damage to their nets alone can cost them more than €5,000 (US 5,471) a year each.

Dr. I. Negas, the project scientist, said “The best way to control an inevitable invasion of an unwanted aquatic population is to create a value for it. By making it valuable you increase the incentive – and the efforts – to collect it.”


By heat-treating the pufferfish to remove the deadly toxin, the project partners believed they could create a profitable market for this fish. Local fishers would have a new target species, aquaculturists would benefit from lower feed prices, and pufferfish numbers would fall.

Trials show that cooking pufferfish at 160°C deactivates the poison to levels safe for human consumption, while at 200°C it disappears. Feeding trials were also encouraging, showing that European sea bass grow well when pufferfish fishmeal replaces up to 30 per cent of conventional fishmeal in their diets.

The project’s business plan looked at a small plant to process 1500 tons/year of pufferfish producing 250 tons/year of fishmeal and 100 tons/year of fish oil. Over ten years the annual return on investment was estimated at 15 to 25 per cent, depending on the extent of compensatory measures for fishers.

According to an article from the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, “On this basis, processing pufferfish would be an attractive investment for aquafeed producers, and help aquaculture producers reduce costs. The ability to produce local fishmeal with a stable composition, high nutritional value and competitive price could have significant benefits for the industry, and a commercial fishery would help control the Lagocephalus sceleratus populations.”

EU funding allowed this innovative project to start the process of sourcing alternative protein for fishmeal production, and prove the basic process at lab and pilot scale.

The project also helped the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and its partners establish connections with coastal fishers, gaining trust for future collaborations and research programmes.

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