Blacktip Island marine biologists say a fish photographed by an island divemaster may be a new species of wrasse. (photo courtesy of Barry Peters)
A Blacktip Island scuba guide diving on his day off Wednesday discovered what scientists say is a previously-unknown reef fish species on the Wrasse Hole Wall dive site.
“Marina dared me to go to 150, and when I got there I saw a weird little fish,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “I shined my light on it and the eyes jumped out at me. I was gobsmacked.
“Back on the boat, people said I was narked,” Helm said. “I had a photo to prove it, though. I was going to name it after me, but I owed Dermott money and I like my face as-is, so I named it after him instead.”
The fish, tentatively dubbed Wrassius bottomsis, is probably a relative of the common Caribbean hairy wrasse, marine biologists said.
“We can’t say for certain without collecting a specimen, killing it and cutting it up – and we’re sending a team down tomorrow to do just that – but it appears to be part of the wrasse family,” Tiperon University-Blacktip ichthyology chair Ernesto Mojarra said. “We have to be sure, though. Anything Lee’s involved with is usually full of crap. It does look kind of like Dermott, though I’d never say that to his face.”
Island scuba operations wasted no time promoting the find.
“We’re running packed boats out to Wrasse Hole Wall two, three times a day,” Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sure, the staff’s got its hands full keeping the guests above 100 feet, but that’s why we pay them minimum wage.
“We’re doing Bottoms Wrasse t-shirts, wrasse hats and Speedos, too,” Skerritt said. “And our own Wrasse Wipe sunscreen. Our bookings are already up in just the last to days.”
Dive professionals worry the discovery may encourage unsafe diving.
“If Lee wants to go that deep and get himself bent on his own time, that’s his business,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Problem is, all our guests want to get down that deep, too, to see his damn fish.
“There’s only so much control a couple of staff can have over 20 divers,” Latner said. “Before, it was like herding cats. Now it’s pure chaos. We snagged three divers at 140 just this morning. Someone’s gonna get hurt, or worse, before this is all over.”
Other residents were less unconcerned.
“Divers go deep all the time. If they’re strong, they’ll survive,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Important thing is that’s my wrasse everybody’s trying to see. My wrasse’s gonna be all over the internet now, you know.”