Before returning to Ain al-Mreisseh’s small port in the capital, fishermen take a moment to remove a few fish from their net, stab them and throw them overboard.(h/t Serious Black)
Fishermen say that all puffer fish invariably receive the same treatment, especially since the Agriculture Ministry issued a decree in July that bans catching,selling and consumption of the extremely toxic fish. The move came after at least seven people died and many were poisoned over the past few years after consuming it.
Playing cards with other fishermen in Ain al-Mreisseh is 66-year-old Adnan Oud, one of many who ate the fish without knowing the danger. A few hours after his meal he recalls, he suddenly “felt numb.”
“I couldn’t walk or raise my hand … I was worried I was having a stroke,” he says. Oud spent four days in a hospital and says doctors never discovered the cause of his illness. But he’s certain the puffer fish was responsible as the moment he felt better, he visited the friend he had shared his meal with, who reported similar symptoms. “I’ve been crawling up the stairs … I couldn’t even carry my tools,” Oud recalls his blacksmith friend telling him.
Oud says many fishermen were skeptical of his story. “Some didn’t believe us, so they fed the fish to the cats. None of them survived, except for one, now walking on two legs.”
“Since then, no one has eaten it,” he says. “But the sea is full of it, and there is no way to get rid of it.”
The puffer fish was first seen in the Eastern Mediterranean some eight years ago. Since then, American University of Beirut marine biology professor Michel Barriche says, “the number of puffer fish [in the Mediterranean sea] exploded” and there are now “millions and millions.”
“The introduction of the new species can be compared with rats, cockroaches,” he explains. “They can live in any environment and eat a wide variety of food.”
...One kind of puffer fish is well known in East Asia, especially in Japan where daredevils like to consume “fugu” fish, a dish that can lead to a fast and brutal death if prepared incorrectly.
A myth circulating among Lebanon’s fishermen says that the fish appeared in the Mediterranean after Israel, which was supposedly raising fugu in fish farms for Japan, released them into the sea when Japan had enough domestic supply of fugu.
The idea that Japan needs Israel to supply it with fish is hardly believable.
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