The fact that cyanide is lethal in small doses to a wide range of marine organisms is well known. The social cost of the trade is also of concern. The divers, are subject to diving practices that regularly cause crippling injuries or even deaths. Frequent repeat dives are made to 50 plus metres, without regulators, and breathing oil contaminated air. Dive watches or depth gauges are not used and decompression stops unheard of. Divers regularly get skin bends and severe bends or embolisms are common; participants apparently accept the risks because of the high economic returns.
Would you mix cyanide with your bare hands?
One other social cost of this fishing practice was observed. The eldest child (less than 5 years old), in a small fishing boat mixed the cyanide with water in an open container using his hand to stir it and then as a cover to stop the mixture splashing out. We cannot help but wonder “How long it will be before the cyanide on the hand is transferred to the child’s mouth?”
Humphead wrasse are the primary target for the live fish trade. The fishers make long dangerous dives using air supplied from a car tyre compressor on the surface and a long hose. Regulators are not used, the fishers breathe directly from the air bubbles. The fish are caught by being chased into a rock crevice and then stunned using cyanide. The fishers have no watch nor depth gauge and do upwards of 5 dives of about 1h to 20-40 m each day (some dives are deeper!). Not surprisingly, bends are common and deaths frequent. The local treatment for a bad bend is to bury the victim up to the neck in sand. Lots of alcohol is used for the pain!!! The victim apparently either dies or recovers with the limb permanently fused.