REPORTED STORY:While diving to 110 feet (30 meters) spearfishing, both divers were stung by a lionfish while attempting to harvest lobsters under a ledge. Both divers were maintaining proper buoyancy but were focused on the catch and did not see the lionfish swimming up to their location. Both divers got stung in the knee through their 5mm wet suits but were able to ascend in a controlled manner. The trip back to shore took two hours and both divers experienced extreme pain at the sting sites. One of the divers even experienced breathing problems. Both went to the local hospital and were treated for the stings before being released.
COMMENTS:Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish, while beautiful, are an introduced species that has rapidly infested the East Coast of the United States and divers are encountering them more frequently than ever before. DAN recommends keeping a careful watch for lionfish, especially when near reefs, man-made structures or harbors. When lionfish are spotted, divers should maintain a safe distance because, although they are not swift in the water, they may behave territorially. As the divers in this incident discovered, even a thick wetsuit offers little or no protection from the venomous fin rays of these aggressive predators.
For more information on lionfish, including First-Aid for stings, see http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/health/hazardous-marine-life/lionfish-envenomation
~ Peter Buzzacott, PhD