Lion tamers wanted, must like to fish

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 11:42 AM.


Another strategy for controlling lionfish is to encourage spear hunters and anglers to take them. The fish are delicious but care must be taken when handling them because of their toxic spines.

Faletti said a lionfish has 18 spines, 13 on its back and five on its underside. The needlelike spines are covered with skin that slides back when the spine enters a target, revealing grooves containing poisonous tissue.

Shepard said the he believes the rough surface on the head also contains some toxin. He said he has been stung by lionfish and the sting is painful like a wasp sting, but, for him, the effects were short-lived.

Fishing guide Tommy Robinson had a different experience. Several years ago, after he was stung while fishing the Keys, he called a doctor friend who advised him to soak the sting in hot water. Because he was on a boat, no hot water was available so the sting went untreated until he reached shore.

Robinson became ill and was flown to Thomasville, Georgia where he received treatment. He became sicker than is normal because a piece of the spine remained in the sting until almost a week after he was injured. Robinson said he is now fully recovered.

Those stung by lionfish should remove the spines, clean the wound and apply heat, not ice, until medical help can be reached. Most people experience pain for less than 24-hours but it is wise to seek medical help because reactions can vary. So far, nobody has died from a lionfish sting in the US.

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