Massive Pufferfish Mortality on Curaçao and Bonaire Cause for Concern and Vigilance

The small sharpnose pufferfish (Canthigaster rostrata) is toxic and can kill other sea animals. Photo: Foto: DCNA

KRALENDIJK/WILLEMSTAD – The mysterious mass death in recent weeks on Curaçao and Bonaire is a cause for concern and vigilance, according to the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). 

The event reminds of a similar incident in Costa Rica in 2017. Not only is the mortality of the fish species itself worrying, but also the potential consequences for other animals, such as green turtles, that feed on the dead or sick fish. The sharp nose puffer fish, a small species found throughout the Caribbean, is also known for its toxic properties, making its consumption a significant risk for other marine animals.

This recent die-off may be linked to a previous explosive growth of the sharp nose puffer fish population. Although researchers still do not know what the cause is, they are drawing parallels with the massive death of these fish in Costa Rica in 2017. At that time, the fish were collected and studied, but no concrete cause was determined. Nevertheless, this situation has underscored the need to monitor indicators of changes in the ocean and to document mass death events scientifically.


According to DCNA, the impact of this event on local fauna is substantial, particularly for green sea turtles, which are opportunistic feeders and inclined to consume the dead fish. The Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has received multiple reports of sick green turtles in recent times and has so far rehabilitated eight turtles. In addition, the STCB found 37 puffer fish in a deceased turtle.

Until the cause of the mass death of the puffer fish is clarified, it is advised to remain vigilant and report unusual observations to STINAPA.

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