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RNLI lifeguards issue weever fish warning

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards warn visitors coming to the beach in the hot weather to beware of the tiny fish that can cause excruciating pain.

RNLI/Beau Gillett

Dead weever fish

One of the most common incidents RNLI lifeguards have to deal with around the coast is weever fish stings. RNLI lifeguards around Devon and Cornwall have already dealt with numerous weever fish stings this year. Last week, RNLI lifeguards at Perranporth in North Cornwall dealt with 26 weever fish stings, at Gyllyngvase in South Cornwall there were 16 and RNLI lifeguards in Whitsand Bay dealt with 26.

The very small, sand coloured fish bury themselves under the sand making them camouflaged and very difficult to see. When stood on, the dorsal fin on the fish’s spine embeds into your foot and discharges venom which causes the excruciating pain often experienced.

Beau Gillet, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said:

‘Weever fish stings can be really painful but they affect everyone differently. I’ve seen grown men cry from the pain and then a small child not be affected by it at all.

The severity of a weever fish sting really depends on how you stand on it. If you stand directly onto the fish’s spinal fin, it causes the most pain.

You can avoid the fish either by wearing wetsuit or swimming shoes to protect your foot or by dragging your feet along the sand as you walk. This movement disrupts the sand and scares any nearby fish away.

If you are stung by a weever fish, the best thing to do is come up to the lifeguard unit. We can treat a sting by placing the affected area into hot water. This breaks up the venom and usually after around 10 minutes, the pain will ease. We’ll then monitor you for a short while just in case you experience any allergic reaction.’

We advise that you always visit a lifeguarded beach when coming to the coast as we are equipped to deal with any incident or emergency and provide the safest cover for sunbathers, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts.’

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland