Tread carefully around stonefish
THE ocean's ugliest and most venomous predator, the stonefish, is increasingly active in the Great Sandy Straits and Tin Can Inlet this Christmas.
Third generation commercial fisherman Joe McLeod said yesterday he had not previously seen stonefish in such large numbers as he had recently.
Rated the most venomous fish known, it comes in several species, mostly marine but some also known to live in rivers.
Without immediate first aid and hospitalisation, death can occur within two hours for an adult and much less for a child.
"People don't need to be alarmed, but they do need to be aware," Mr McLeod said.
"Shuffle your feet," advised stone fish victim Kev Phillips, owner-operator of Wolf Rock Dive Centre at Rainbow Beach.
"Don't stomp," he said, explaining that the venomous spines of the fish were on its back.
The stonefish is an ambush predator, which normally hides from prey, mainly small fish and yabbies that attempt to swim by.
The spines are to defend it against bottom-dwelling stingrays and sharks which may try to eat it.
Or unsuspecting humans who may stomp on it.
The only effective first aid is to dip the affected area in water as hot as you can stand.
Mr Phillips copped it in the left hand while working under water on the demolition of the Bullock Point jetty, between Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point.
That was about seven years ago.
"It was towards the end of the day and there was zero visibility.
"I grabbed what I thought was a crane hook, but it was a stone fish.
"They've got 13 spines and I copped 11 of them.
"Kevlar gloves didn't help," he said.
"I dipped my hand in boiling water, which didn't hurt as much as the sting.
"All the skin peeled off my hand, but without it I probably wouldn't be alive today.
"They didn't have any antivenene at the hospital and that's why I still have side-effects.
"My left arm aches even now as we're talking," he said.
Mr McLeod attributed his extra stonefish sightings to a lack of seagrass.
"They normally hide in the seagrass, but this is the second year without seagrass, so they're more mobile, moving around looking for food.
"People think they're normally in rocky areas, but they can also hide in coral, as well as sand and mud".
Mr Phillips said he blamed his continuing pain on a hospital decision to keep him under observation instead of flying in antivenene immediately.
- Most venomous fish known
- Up to 35cm long
- Found from Brisbane to around north to near Perth
- May be found in exposed sand and mud at low tide
- Extremely hot water the only known first aid