Imagine that you're out fishing whilst on holiday in the Mediterranean, and pull up a Sarpa Salpa – a beautiful-looking sea bream with bright golden stripes running down the length of its body. You know that this species is commonly eaten in these parts because you’ve seen it on menus at seafood restaurants along the beach, so you decide to take it home for dinner.

You sauté the fish in a little butter, add a pinch of salt and pepper and a splash of lemon and serve it with some rice. Then after you finish eating dinner, you relax on the sofa for a while to watch TV. It isn’t until after you finish the first program that you start to feel a bit funny...

Everything seems a bit sharper yet you feel a bit distant and there's a slight pressure behind your eyes. You think to yourself, maybe I shouldn't have had that second glass of wine. You fill a glass with water, thinking that maybe that will help, yet while the next program is one you've seen before, it somehow seems unfamiliar. Then you take a sip of the water, and realize it tastes blue.

Suddenly, you realize that not only does the water taste blue, but you can feel and smell the sound emanating from your TV. The world suddenly fractures into a whirling kaleidoscope of motion and colour, you lose control of your thoughts, a sense of panic takes over, and then all hell breaks loose...

You've just become the victim of “ichthyoallyeinotoxism”, a hallucinogenic fish intoxication that’s very similar to the effects of psychedelic substances such as “magic mushrooms.” Only a dozen species of the world’s fish have so far been found to have hallucinogenic properties, and while the exact makeup of the toxin hasn’t yet been identified, it’s thought that the effects are due to a buildup of certain algae or the seagrass that the fish feed on.

What separates Sarpa salpa from the majority of these fish is that it doesn't usually cause hallucinogenic effects and is commonly eaten, yet some diners along the Med have still been quite unlucky...or lucky depending on your point of view...

Thank you for reading this week's edition of FIN ('Fascinating Ichthyological Nugget'): the easiest way to propel your aquatic knowledge! We sincerely hope that you'll find these of interest and want to share them with your friends…