The Department of Fisheries and Marine Research has issued a public alert regarding the discovery of a new species of catfish, Plotosus lineatus, in the waters of Cyprus.
This Indo-Pacific native, known as a Lessepsian migrant, originally passed from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and has now established itself in Mediterranean waters.
While this species has been documented in the Mediterranean since 2001, its first recorded presence in Cyprus occurred in 2022 off the coast of the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas in Karpasia. Most recently, on September 17, 2023, it was observed in the Marine Area of Protaras.
The Plotosus lineatus catfish is relatively small, typically measuring between 15 to 25 cm. It has a brown body adorned with white longitudinal stripes and sports four pairs of whiskers, two above and two below the mouth.
This species primarily resides on the seabed, typically inhabiting rocky seabeds at depths of up to 60 meters. Its diet consists mainly of crustaceans, mollusks, and worms. Juveniles often form dense schools, while adults are either solitary or in smaller groups, seeking refuge in rock crevices during daylight hours.
It's important to note that handling this catfish can be hazardous due to the spines on its dorsal and lateral fins, as well as toxins secreted by its skin. Symptoms of a bite include localized swelling, intense pain, and potentially serious complications if not promptly treated, including the possibility of death. Immediate relief involves applying warm water to the affected area, followed by seeking medical attention.
Notably, the Plotosus lineatus catfish is not the only toxic alien species in our waters. Others, such as the allagocephalus and the lionfish, have been present for some time. Additionally, the Lessepsian rockfish (Synanceia verrucosa) with its potent toxin verrucotoxin (VTX) was recorded in the sea area of the occupied coma of Gialos in 2020.
This species, found mainly on rocky seabeds at depths of up to 30 meters, can cause extreme pain, bleeding, swelling, and even paralysis if stung. Similar to the catfish, immediate warm water treatment and prompt medical attention are essential.
Fortunately, there is an antidote for verrucotoxin, significantly improving the chances of effective treatment. The relevant medical services have been contacted and have secured the antidote for verrucotoxin. For more information on these species, the public can refer to TADE's website for informative materials.