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Report: Moray Eel Attacks as Cayman Islands Watersport Operators Ignore Feeding Warning; 'A Major Panic'
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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- A dive guide appears to be the latest victim of a decision by watersports operators to ignore clear warnings from the Department of Environment (DoE) about feeding moray eels at Stingray City.

According to an eyewitness report by Dale Sherriff, a tourist from the UK, the attack took place on 11 October when a trip operated by Captain Marvin's made a stop so the guide and boat captain, reportedly known simply as 'Chester', could show the divers a moray eel.

Before entering the water he warned the customers that if the eel came towards them, they were to cross their arms and clench their fists. In the water, Chester played with the eel, letting it slide over his arms and round his body. The eel then disappeared into a hole under the coral but re-emerged and was seen following Chester who was now swimming with Mr Sherriff's two young daughters.

Mr Sherrif says that what happened next is unclear.

"I was under the water and when I came up, there was a major panic. Everyone was swimming like hell back to the boat. I hadn't a clue what was happening and thought there must be a shark, it was like the beach scene in Jaws. I have never been so scared in my life. When I reached the boat, Chester was being pushed up the ladder, his arm bleeding badly. He then collapsed."

Mr Sherriff says that Chester, despite his injuries, got the two girls back to the boat safely.

According to Mr Sherriff the problem now was getting help for Chester who was crewing the boat alone and his injuries were, at this stage, incapacitating.

"As an ex-midwife, I was the most medically qualified person on the boat. Someone came over from another tour boat and we were told that someone from Capt Marvin's was going to come out and pick the guide up. However, we got a new man on board to start the boat and made out to meet Capt Marvin's men. What was needed was a Coast guard in a fast boat and a paramedic."

In his email, Mr Sherriff said that eventually, a speedboat turned up.

"By now Chester was not in great shape, the crew did not have a clue as to how to deal with him. He was roughly handed over and, despite my protests, the crew didn't even bother about supporting his arm."

Despite the incident Mr Sherriff says the tour continued. "On reflection, what are watersports companies doing bringing tourists to this place? Had I known about this eel, there would be no way I would have swum here, let alone taken my children. This thing was literally inches from them. Also alarming, was the complete absence of medical assistance," he concluded.

The DoE confirmed that they are aware of the incident and have repeated the warning given in May 2005 after 11-year-old Justin Weber suffered severe arm injuries during an attack by a moray eel at Stingray City.

At the time Gina Petrie, Director of the Department of Environment (DOE) said: "The DOE is aware of the incident and has had a long-standing position on not feeding animals that has largely gone unheeded by watersports operators. People are put directly in harm's way when dangerous animals are fed. In any terrestrial park anywhere in the world, feeding of the animals is not allowed. However, in a marine environment, people tend to relax this rule."

Noting the fact that people are being allowed to feed what scientists describe as "a dangerous predator and opportunistic omnivore," Ms Petrie said, "The DoE's warning against feeding is not only because of the danger to humans, but also because this practice has ecological consequences as well."

She concluded at the time that if watersports operators and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, CITA, continue to ignore this warning then people will have to take responsibility for their actions.


Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

5 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

I think eels should be left alone. They're my favorite animal and I've heard kids say when they grow-up they are going to hunt eels. I try to change their mind but I can't.
   comment# 1   - Courtney Mckenzie · Guyton,Georgia · Dec 26, 2006 @ 3:40pm

I would like to state that there are several comments made about this attack that are incorrect. First, it was my 18 yr old son and a 12 year old girl who were in trouble not two young girls. Some reports have Chester letting us feed the eel but that never happened. The crew were the only ones who did. Secondly, once Chester was attached, the crew did the best that they could. We did have to convince them that them that they needed to start back and meet the boat and the ambulance that was waiting. After speaking with several of the crew, this was something that had never happened before and they weren't sure what to do. They didn't treat him roughly except to pull him into the boat and at that point, his arm was tightly wrapped to try and stop the bleeding. Once Chester was in the ambulance, we were asked if we wanted to head back out and finish our excursion and everyone agreed. Chester did an amazingly brave action in trying to get the eel away from my son and the other girl. He could have done nothing and who knows what could have happened! I for one am thankful that Chester was there and that my son is safe at home with us in Texas!!
   comment# 2   - lorifil · Round Rock, Texas · Sep 12, 2007 @ 9:44pm

   comment# 3   - WILSON · MIDDLVILLAGE NY · Oct 11, 2008 @ 12:04pm

eels up inside ya finding an enterance where they can, eels up inside ya finding an enterance where they can, burry thru ur tummy thru ur mind thru ur anus!
   comment# 4   - dave · sheffield uk · Oct 21, 2011 @ 2:10pm

I had been a divemaster at the old casa bertmar, owned and run ex policeman kent eldemeyer(sp) and it was just a short swim to a shore dive with two quite famous green morays "waldo and waldette"(this was way way back in 1980/81) i was with an instructor just going over the underwater headings and directions to waldo's cave. So i could take small teams of divers from their dock to the dive site. He had decided to bring baitfish to feed waldo. He kept the majority of the "food" in the front pocket of his BC. On this occasion he held the baitfish in an outstreched hand and tempted waldo out of his cave, and would release it as waldo came within inches of the time he pulled his baited hand towards his bc and waldo discovered the balance of the bait in his bc pocket. In an instant waldo took hold of the remaining bait fish with his top teeth and his lower jaw closed on part of the BC a second waldo was pulling and shaking his head,spinning etc. This is an incredibly strong animal in his environment,and proceeded to just shred the instructors BC pocket and taking him for a wild out of control ride through the sandy bottom of what made up "waldos cave" area.In the end all that was damaged was the BC and pride. a completely unintentional mistake between both parties.what surprised me was the strength of this green moray, 7/8 feet of muscle.if u have been lucky enough to handle one u know what i mean. Poor waldo its his environment his home. DO NOT FEED THEM EVER
   comment# 5   - Eddy liptrott · Canada · Apr 9, 2016 @ 2:54pm
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