Lionfish culler bitten by nurse shark

| 31/08/2019 | 12 Comments
Cayman  News Service
Paul Egleston

(CNS Local Life): A diver taking part in the Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) tournament today (Saturday, 31 August) was bitten by a nurse shark, suffering a serious injury to the back of his knee. Paul Egleston (70), who is a CULL board member and experienced diver, was hunting lionfish when the shark began aggressively going after the fish in his container but ended up taking a chunk out of his leg. Egleston was taken to Cayman Islands Hospital, where he will be receiving a skin graft over the wound, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Mark Orr, chief conservation officer at the Department of Environment (DoE) and one of the founders of CULL, was at the event today and explained that this was not typical behaviour for a nurse shark, but that when divers feed them lionfish off their spears they learn to expect food that way. He stressed that it is illegal to feed marine life except in Wildlife Interaction Zones, adding that the DoE has had reports of both licensed and unlicensed cullers feeding the sharks this way.

He explained that the nurse shark had been around Egleston trying to get a “handout” and when that didn’t happen, it went after the lionfish he had collected but wound up knocking the container away and biting the diver instead. He stressed that shark attacks are very rare in Cayman, and noted the issue is when people feed predators of any kind, pointing out that a similar incident has occurred with an eel going after a culler, biting his hand, again because they had been previously fed lionfish.

“The only way to stop this from happening is to stop the illegal feeding of marine life in our waters,” Orr said. “The nurse shark is not seen as an aggressive shark. It’s curious but that’s about it. They eat mostly shells and molluscs; it’s not even natural for them to eat lionfish. They just get used to it.”

Katie O’Neill, vice chair and co-founder of CULL, said she had spoken to Egleston and he was in “very good spirits”. Describing him as a very dedicated culler, she added, “He told me his biggest regret was that he wasn’t able to be at today’s weigh-in and won’t be able to take part in the cull tomorrow.”

O’Neill also warned that when the sharks “don’t get fed and encounter other people who are culling, this is the kind of thing that can happen and it’s really tragic. But it will not happen again if we can just convince people to stop doing things that compromise the safety of the people who are following DoE rules and using containment devices.”

This weekend marks the 30th lionfish cull organised to help curb the population of this invasive species. The tournament wraps up tomorrow.

Correction: The original article incorrectly stated that Paul Egleston had already received a skin graft, when the procedure hasn’t yet been performed.


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Category: Health, health and safety, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (12)

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  1. Zombie Jesus says:

    The lionfish hired a bodyguard.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Well done CNS. You’ve managed to accurately cover a story about a shark bite without the need for a gory photo or sensationalist nonsense. Nice bit of actual journalism unlike CMR and their rush to get out the photo of the wound.

    Speedy recovery to the diver.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Stop picking on CMR.

      Many times CMR publishes the truth covered up by other public media.

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      • Anon says:

        CMR is run by a gossip….A Gossip defined as “…..2. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts. 3. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.”

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      • Anonymous says:

        Unfortunately it also publishes whatever it’s told as long as its sensationalist and chimes with its owners personal peeves but without any regard for whether it’s true. At which point you struggle to discriminate between the true stories covered up, and the ones made up or embellished, and end up believing none of them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ugh. Wishing you a speedy recovery Paul. Unfortunately, I have seen and heard of too many divers intentionally feeding lionfish to marine life in the mistaken belief that they are ‘training’ the creatures to hunt lionfish themselves. Instead, all they are doing is training lionfish to associate humans with handouts, and bites such as Paul’s are the inevitable result. Worse, it is never the idiots feeding these creatures who get bitten, but rather the innocent diver who comes along next, as in this case. Thanks DoE and CNS for the reminder in this article – feeding marine life outside the wildlife interaction zones is illegal. Legal culling is the only effective way to reduce lionfish numbers on our reefs.

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  4. Gray Matter says:

    Lionfish / Shark.. Turf; Interfering human snack get in the way

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Animals of any sort are unpredictable and these things will happen occasionally, we just never know who or what type of animal, I wish the lad a speedy recovery

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  6. Anonymous says:

    He should have just fed the fish. It’s a crazy ocean out there .

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    • Anonymous says:

      Feeding the sharks/barracuda/Eel’s is why we get these incidents in the first place. His accident comes as a reminder that feeding wildlife needs to stop for the sake of the animals and people.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not Disneyland…

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  7. Booya says:

    Nurse shark was just protecting it’s little fish friends. A reminder that the ocean is not our element.

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