"It hurts so much you want to chop your hand off."
Bruce Purdy, whose first contact with the poisonous spines of a lionfish prompted this quote, did not chop off his hand. He did, however, quietly suffer an "intense throbbing pain" in his hand for several hours, an experience he would re-live to a lesser degree 20 more times. In the dozens of underwater patrols for lionfish he conducts in and around the canals of Freeport, spearing lionfish in legion, he has been stung so often that he said he's built up an immunity. Now, he says, the effect is more like a pinprick than poison sting.
Lionfish are not known to attack humans, and their spines are designed as a defense mechanism, raising on their back when they feel threatened. Though there are few reports of humans being stuck unprovoked, lionfish are increasingly found in shallow waters around Nassau, meaning tourists and locals alike might be well advised to mind where they swim. An accidental brush with lionfish, though not deadly, can more than spoil an afternoon at the beach.
College of Bahamas student Marcy Tucker has speared dozens of lionfish around Nassau, including in shallow waters just off the shore of Cave's Beach, Cable Beach and Saunders Beach. He notes the potential for accidental contact with lionfish by swimmers.
"These fish aren't frightened fish. Usually a stingray will move (when you approach it in water), but the lionfish allow you to get pretty close without moving away," he said.
Purdy said that's especially the case with adult lionfish, which he describes as "arrogant" because they stand their ground when approached, so to speak.
The Department of Marine Resources has posted warnings throughout The Bahamas to swimmers and other sea goers to be wary of the lionfish, but department Director Michael Braynen said many Bahamians still don't know what lionfish are.
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Read a subsequent article in the Freeport News (written by Dr. Percentie)