Warning of poisonous fish on Irish beach causing painful stings

Hidden: The weever fish hides in the sand. © Stock Photo
Hidden: The weever fish hides in the sand. © Stock Photo

Beachgoers have been warned to be wary of a highly poisonous fish after five people were stung this week.

Local man Paul Leahy described what happened on Brittas Beach, Wicklow, earlier this week and the Irish Water Safety authority advice is to be extra vigilant during this upcoming low water Spring Tides.

“Adults and children were among the victims today. Their sting is excruciatingly painful. Lifeguards treated the victims. They are usually just under the sand near the water's edge. It is advisable to wear footwear,” he told Wicklow News.

The lesser weever fish only gets as big as 6 inches but can be extremely painful to those who come in contact with the venomous spines along its dorsal fin.

The fish buries itself in the sand with only its dorsal fin and eyes exposed.

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Although difficult to spot, it has a poisonous spine which protrudes up through the sand and can break off into a person’s foot when stepped on.

John Leech, Chief Executive of the Irish Water Safety Authority, advised parents to be aware the fish's presence.

“They camouflage themselves in the sand and you literally won’t see them,” he said.

"You’ve got people out walking into areas they normally wouldn’t, they’re out paddling and swimming and then they stand on the little fins which can sometimes break off into people’s feet,” he added.

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"Parents should make sure their children are wearing flip-flops or other footwear. If you do happen to get stung, contacting the lifeguard on duty should be your first course of action".

The sting can cause swelling and redness, and the discomfort can last for up to two weeks.

The advice in the case of a sting is to submerge the affected area in warm water above 40 degrees Celsius which helps to break down and draw out the poison.

The Irish Water Safety advise people to avoid swimming around two hours either side of the low water tide to reduce the risk of stepping on them until the tides revert back towards neaps later next week.

"The public should wear flip flops or sandals when walking on the beach close to low water. When entering the water, make plenty of noise with your feet and kick up the sand a little, this alerts the weever fish to your presence and they normally swim out into deeper water away from you."

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