These Philippine Fish Varieties Are Poisonous To Eat

Not all fish are edible.

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Not all fish in the seas are edible. News reports about people who have become ill or have died from eating poisonous fish are commonly people who caught the fish themselves but did not prepare the fish properly.   

One of the most dangerous and poisonous fish to eat is the pufferfish or blowfish, locally also known as the butete. Another species of the blowfish is the porcupinefish or boteteng laot. The pufferfish, or fugu in Japanese, are poisonous to eat if not prepared properly. That's why chefs who prepare and the restaurants which serve this poisonous fish as part of their menu need certain certifications first to legally prepare and serve the fish. The chefs in particular need to be highly trained and have earned a special license to prepare the fish. 

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What makes most pufferfish species so poisonous and dangerous to eat? It's the inner organs. To prepare any fish and other seafood safely, it's recommended that the inner organs be removed and discarded properly. For the butute especially, the poisonous inner organs need to be cleanly and safely removed. A wrongly placed knife cut can puncture these poisonous inner organs releasing the toxins and contaminating the rest of the fish. The removal of the inner organs is also the advice of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) with regards to how to prepare fish during the times when the red tide alerts are active. 

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When prepared correctly as sashimi or raw fish slices, the flesh of the blowfish is allegedly flavorless and quite chewy which is the reason why it's sliced so thinly. However, the main draw of the fugu could be the danger associated with eating it rather than its taste. It's also quite expensive. 


Other species of fish that are listed as "poisonous to eat" are some species of these kinds of fish: 

  • • sharks or pating
  • • surgeonfish or labahita  
  • • goby or biyang dagat
  • • oilfish or sumpitan 

There are other fish that are also considered dangerous to eat, and it's not always because the fish itself is poisonous. It can also be because the fish has been reported to cause ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera poisoning is a toxin that results from eating fish that feed on tiny algae that produce the toxin. These tiny algae are commonly found around coral reefs. These include barracuda, grouper, sea bass, parrotfish, and red snapper. These are the same kinds of fish among the comprehensive list on Fish Base, where several species of reef fish in the Philippines are considered dangerous to eat. 

Fortunately, most supermarkets do not sell poisonous fish or fish that have been contaminated. However, if you go fishing or visit the palengke or fish markets, you may need to learn which fish may be dangerous for you to consume unless prepared properly. These are some of the fishes that you can find in most wet markets: 

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Barracuda are also known as batig and bulios or balyos. It's a long and predatory fish which feed on other fish. 

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Parrotfish are also known as loro or isdang loro. These are gorgeously colorful fish which turn gray when cooked. It's a meaty white fish which is sometimes fishy in taste.   

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Grouper more popularly known as lapu-lapu. Fortunately, the majority of the lapu-lapu you find in supermarkets should be safe. To be on the safe side, remember to remove the inner organs and gills.     

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Another popular fish is the snapper, more popularly known as maya-maya. Just like the lapu-lapu, these are common in fish stalls and markets. 

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This large fish, known as the emperor fish is also known as bitilya or katambak budlis. This is meaty white fish similar to the grouper. 


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here.

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