Dozens of swimmers poisoned by weever fish after warm weather leads to population explosion in British waters

By Daily Mail Reporter

Unseen danger: The lesser weever has venomous spines that inflict agony on unlucky bathers in bare feet

British holidaymakers have been warned to beware the innocent-looking but dangerous weever fish after at least 30 beachgoers were poisoned in a week.

Scores of unsuspecting bathers, some of them young children, have already fallen prey to the small sea creatures's venomous sting.

The weever fish has sharp spines laced with venom along its dorsal fin which stick up out of the sand, where it hides, and inflict agony on any unsuspecting bathers unlucky enough to tread on one.

The nerve poison injected into victims brings excruciating pain lasting several hours, often causes people's limbs to swell and in extreme cases can lead to temporary paralysis. Irritation can last for two weeks.

Death is extremely rare following stings, although respiratory failure and gangrene have been reported after puncture wounds have become infected.

The sandy-coloured fish, measuring around six inches, are more commonly found in warmer waters but have bred rapidly around Britain's coast because of the recent spell of hot weather.

They are usually invisible to the naked eye as they camouflage themselves under sand in shallow water.

Marine expert Matt Slater, of the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall, warned surfers and holidaymakers to be vigilant.

He said: 'The weever fish uses specially-adapted dorsal fins to inject a fast-acting poison into the wound.

'The pain is excruciating and is at its most intense for the first two hours when the affected limb swells up.

'There are some basic precautions to avoid getting stung. The simplest is to wear some form of footwear in the water.

'Another way is to shuffle your feet through the sand as you walk - this disturbance should scare away any nearby fish.'

Mr Slater said pain from an attack can last for up to 24 hours and those stung by the poisonous fish should treat the area with hot water.

He added: 'If you do get stung the most effective treatment is to put the affected limb in water as hot as the victim can stand without causing scalding.

'The heat helps to break down the poison and it also increases blood flow to the sting causing natural cleaning and healing.'

Weever fish are common in the Mediterranean but multiply around the British coast in hot spells, when they become a hazard for paddlers.
They bury themselves in the sand backwards for camouflage and snatch prey as it swims past.

The venom in its spines is a nerve poison and has a chemical in it which is one of the most potent pain producing substances known.

The weever's poisonous dorsal spine is a defence against potential attackers. A sting feels at first like a sharp stab but the pain increases quickly.

source: dailymail