March 9, 2021

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water: Waterford swimmers warned to be careful of poisonous weever fish and Lion’s Mane jellyfish

Swimmers in Waterford have been warned to be vigilant and to be careful of two creatures looking below the surface – weever fish and the Lion’s Mane jellyfish.

The CEO of Irish Water Safety John Leech issued a warning to swimmers, surfers and all beach users of the little sandy coloured fish that lives in the sea on our beaches.

It spends most of the time buried under the sand with just its venomous black dorsal fin showing above the sandy bottom. It grows to a maximum length of 15 centimetres.

They are found all round the Irish coast but only in sandy areas where the water is warm and shallow close to the mean low water tide line.

There is a new moon on Tuesday and that will give us spring tides which means that swimmers and surfers will have to venture further out on the beach in to the area where the weever live.

“We advise the public to avoid swimming approximately one hour to two hours either side of low water to reduce the risk of stepping on them until the tides reverts back towards neaps later next week,” he said.

“The public should wear flip flops or sandals when walking on the beach close to Low Water.

“Should a bather step on a weever fish then the pain is excruciating as the spines embed into the human flesh and discharge their poison.

“The pain is at its most intense for the first two hours when the foot normally goes red and swells up, and then it may feel numb until the following day with irritation and pain that may last for up to two weeks.

“Sometimes, the spine breaks off in the foot and it will cause discomfort until it is removed.”

People who have been stung can take painkillers and if they develop an allergic reaction to the sting, a course of antihistamines is recommended and seek assistance from a lifeguard who are all qualified first aiders.

If you are away from a beach with lifeguard support, as soon as possible get the area which has been stung, invariably the foot, into hot water, this increases the blood flow which assists natural cleaning and healing, the heat also helps to break down the poison.

Most reports of stings occur during the month of August because of the greater numbers of bathers as the sea temperature reaches the highest of the year.

Meanwhile, August is also “peak season” for the Lion’s Mane jellyfish to wash up here.

The jellyfish is a rust colour and can be up to one metre long, have 150 long tentacles on the bottom which can give off a nasty sting that is known for great pain, nausea, cramps and headaches.

“In the context of Ireland you get most of them in the Irish Sea, and from our research we found around Dublin is you tend to get more of them. Dublin Bay seems to be a bit of a hotspot, and also, around Hollyhead,” Dr Damien Haberlin, a researcher at University College Cork’s Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, said.

“The Lion’s Mane is probably the nastiest species we get most of the time in terms of the sting, although, I would hasten to add there’s never been a recorded fatality or anything like that, but there have been some people hospitalised with respiratory difficulties, and awfully severe pain.”



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