Charlie was scrubbing the bottom of a boat in Trellis Bay (Charlie just hates dirty bottoms) when he looked down and saw what he thought was an anchor, half-buried in the sand in about 15ft of water. He dove down to take a closer look and as he was clearing the sand away a moray eel darted out and bit Charlie on the finger. Now, moray eels have razor sharp teeth, angling inwards, and as he pulled his hand away his finger was raked – almost to the bone – and he bled like a stuck pig.
About two weeks later Charlie was cleaning a conch and as he washed away the last remnants of debris from the shell, in shallow water near the rocky beach, a moray darted out and bit him on the same finger, with the same results. So what are the conclusions? Are moray eels vicious attackers of humans or are these examples of mistaken identity. The answer is probably the latter; most likely a human finger looks like a tasty edible snack to these sight challenged creatures.
We can learn a lot from the underwater world. Charlie has been exploring the undersea habitat for over four decades and has come up with some enlightening conclusions. These are that although humans cause havoc and devastation to the marine world there is no retaliation from sea creatures. Of course, we are not on the same wavelength when it comes to cognitive senses but even so the underwater world is one of serenity and peaceful co-existence and although we know that the underwater species have to eat to live, we rarely see this when snorkeling or diving. Has anyone been attacked or bitten by a sea creature, except in the case of mistaken identity – probably not.
Humans, through greed, lack of awareness, poor attitude or plain ignorance are destroying our oceans. Commercial fishers haul in nets full of different species and dump tons of dead unwanted marine life. Sport fishers say they ‘catch and release’ but in fact a marlin, for example, that has been dragged through the water for a couple of hours is nothing more than shark food, bleeding, exhausted and injured, when it’s released. Novice divers and snorkelers kick and bash fragile corals. Careless boaters run aground and tear up sea beds with anchors. Developers create sediment run-off which suffocates delicate coral polyps and fishers who use non biodegradable fish pots create eternal death traps when floats break free.
With all this abuse it’s somehow amazing that we see such a beautiful and tranquil underwater world. We can learn a lot from nature. We need to examine reasons for aggression. We need to re-examine ‘retaliation’ as a response to aggression. We need to examine sustainability and we need to teach awareness.
Charlie is by no means a ‘reef hugger’. He loves a mahi-mahi sandwich or a tuna steak as much as the next man. But here’s one of his favorite snippets of wisdom: ‘Moderation in all Things’ (including moderation).
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.