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Sea Sense

Watch out for the weavers

Weaver fish warning

As the sea around Cornwall continues to warm up, a small but painful enemy is heading our way, ready to pounce on unsuspecting surfers and bathers...

The heatwave that has gripped Cornwall recently has led to an increase in the number of people being stung by weaver fish on our beaches.

The warning to bathers and surfers is to be on your guard against the fish which lie half-buried in shallow water.

Despite measuring less than six centimetres, weavers are thought to be Britain’s most dangerous marine species.

Once trodden on the fish uses specially-adapted dorsal fins to inject a fast-acting poison into the wound. The pain is described as excruciating and is at its most intense for the first two hours when the affected limb swells up.

If left untreated it will continue feeling numb until the following day and some pain may last for up to two weeks. If the spine actually breaks off in the foot it will cause discomfort until it is removed.

A Cornish beach
Weaver fish are in Cornish waters

The simplest is to wear some form of footwear in the water.

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 breakdown the poison but it also increases blood flow to the sting causing natural cleaning and healing.

The sting feels at first like a sharp stab but this pain increases quickly for up to an hour and has been known to last for up to 24 hours. The venom produced is a nerve poison and has a chemical in it which is one of the most potent pain producing substances known.

Most Cornish beaches have lifeguards trained in first aid and help and advice can be sought there. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns following a weaver fish sting.

The majority of reports of stings occur during the summer months - not because the fish are more numerous inshore at this time of year but because more people take to the water as sea temperatures rise.

The weaver's poisonous dorsal spine is a defence against would be attackers.

last updated: 20/07/06
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