In tropical waters north of Australia, the stonefish has long been one of the deadliest of the world's sea creatures.
CU Stonefish (two shots)
GV and SVs Man walks among rocks and catches stonefish (three shots)
SV Biologist examines fish in bucket (two shots)
Men looking on
Man arriving with stonefish in bowl
CU Sign "Stonefish collection" PULL out to SV of man with stonefish in bowl.
GV PAN fisheries area
SV and CU Man being paid for supply of fish (two shots)
CU and SV Stonefish in cage being placed into water.
Stonefish collection centre/ stonefish in underground pool/ CU and transference of stonefish.
STANNARD: "This is a stonefish, undoubtedly the ugliest, and also the most deadly, of all the poison fish in tropical waters. The highly-lethal toxin in these needle-like spines can kill a man in a few hours. The stonefish is enveloped in a dense, murky-brown weedlike substance which makes it almost invisible among the rocks in the murky coastal shallows. Until now, native fishermen who trod on them faced almost certain death.
"It's a long way from Melbourne, but the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories' research work starts here, in the tidal shallows around Port Moresby. Natives are being encouraged to trap the stonefish and bring them to a local marine research station, where the deadly poison can be extracted from sacs just below the spine.
"The poison from which the antivenene is being developed is sent off to the scientists in Melbourne. The stonefish is among the most deadly of all tropical fish. Its milky-white toxin is injected through a series of needle-sharp spines, which are activated when the fish is disturbed.
REPORTER: BRUCE STANNARD
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: In tropical waters north of Australia, the stonefish has long been one of the deadliest of the world's sea creatures. Its toxin can cause dreadful pain, and kill within hours. Now, Australian scientists are hoping that its toxin can be used to treat certain blood diseases, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Barry Stannard of Sydney's Channel ATN Seven, reports.
SYNOPSIS: The effect is excruciatingly painful, and often leads to paralysis and death. New Guinea natives have had their own crude, but effective, cure for centuries; they simply wrap the poisoned limb in banana leaves, and hold it over a fire. That works, but at a terrible price.
"Scientists at Sydney's Macquarie University are also collecting new Guinea stonefish poison for research into blood pressure and brain diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease. The natives are paid about five dollars for each stonefish, and now more than fifty are being kept alive here in an underwater cage, awaiting the arrival of the Australian scientists."
In tropical waters north of Australia, the stonefish lurks as one of the deadliest of the world's sea creatures.
The ugly, spiny creature has natural disguise that makes detection almost impossible for fishermen treading the shallows. Scores have trod on the stonefish -- and died in agony within an hour or so.
Now, two Australian research institutions are carrying out special research on the sea "monster", collecting specimens at Port Moresby, Papua-New Guinea.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne is hopeful of producing a counter to the deadly stonefish poison, injected through spines into anyone unlucky enough to tread on one.
And at MacQuarie University in Sydney, scientists believe that the venom itself could be useful as a drug in certain blood diseases and afflictions such as Parkinson's disease and multiple Sclerosis.
Fisherman along the Papua-New Guinea coastline are being asked to collect stonefish and return them to Port Moresby, where about 50 are already under observation.
The natives have an age-old treatment for stonefish poisoning -- to wrap the affected lim in banana palms and place over a hot fire! This sometimes works -- but at the cos of excruciating pain and disfigurement.