The determination of thiocyanate in the blood plasma and holding water of Amphiprion clarkii after exposure to cyanide

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The illegal practice of cyanide fishing continues throughout the Indo-Pacific. To combat this destructive fishing method, a reliable test to detect whether a fish has been captured using cyanide (CN) is needed. We report on the toxicokinetics of acute, pulsed CN exposure and chronic thiocyanate (SCN) exposure, the major metabolite of CN, in the clownfish species, Amphiprion clarkii. Fish were pulse exposed to 50 ppm CN for 20 or 45 s or chronically exposed to 100 ppm SCN for 12 days and blood plasma levels of SCN were measured. SCN blood plasma levels reached a maximum concentration (301-468 ppb) 0.13-0.17 days after exposure to CN and had a 0.1 to 1.2 day half-life. The half-life of blood plasma SCN after chronic exposure to SCN was found to be 0.13 days. Interestingly, we observed that when a fish, with no previous CN or SCN exposure, was placed in holding water spiked to 20 ppb SCN, there was a steady decrease in the SCN concentration in the holding water until it could no longer be detected at 24 hrs. Under chronic exposure conditions (100 ppm, 12 days), trace levels of SCN (∼40 ppb) were detected in the holding water during depuration but decreased to below detection within the first 24 hrs. Our holding water experiments demonstrate that low levels of SCN in the holding water of A. clarkii will not persist, but rather will quickly and steadily decrease to below detection limits refuting several publications. After CN exposure, A. clarkii exhibits a classic two compartment model where SCN is eliminated from the blood plasma and is likely distributed throughout the body. Similar studies of other species must be examined to continue to develop our understanding of CN metabolism in marine fish before a reliable cyanide detection test can be developed.