The tongue-eating parasites cut off the tongue of the sea bream and take its place. Credit: SCPHA.
The cymothoa exigua parasites cut off the tongue of seabream and take its place.Credit: SCPHA

Parasites that cut off and take the place of fish tongues have been discovered in an imported shipment of fish at a Suffolk port.

The seabream infested with cymothoa exigua was detected at the Port of Felixstowe earlier this week by the Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA).

It was rejected at the port and sent back to its port of origin.

The authority first spotted something was wrong when the importer failed to complete the paperwork needed, and parasites were then found in the packaging.

When an officer then opened a sample of the cartons, they discovered that the dead cymothoa exigua had infested some of the seabream.

Fish infested with the cymothoa exigua parasites.
The shipment was found to be infested with the cymothoa exigua parasites.Credit: SCPHA

Danut Cazacu, a veterinary surgeon with the SCPHA, said: “Cases such as these are clear reminders of why we work hard to investigate imports and ensure they’re safe for human consumption.

“Many goods pass our health checks without presenting risks, but we sometimes receive unacceptable consignments and must be ready for anything.”

Investigations are carried out at our discretion, so when we detect something is wrong, we can have more of the consignment unloaded for further examination.

“After checking more cartons, it was apparent that most of the seabream were infested, so we denied the consignment’s entry into the UK. From there the importer can choose to have it destroyed or sent back to them, and in this case they chose the latter.”

Parasites extracted from the seabream by the SCPHA.
Parasites extracted from the seabream by the SCPHA.Credit: SCPHA

Port health manager Richard Jacobs praised the team for having spotted the parasites.

“It’s not every day that we find imports infested with parasites, but we are always prepared and ready to take action,” he added.


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