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114 people stung by weaver fish on Jersey's beaches in 2019

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THEY are small, hard to spot and spend most of their day keeping out of the way buried in the sand close to the shore...

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But the humble weaver fish – and its nasty sting – kept Jersey’s beach lifeguards busy last year, accounting for nearly half of all their call-outs during the spring and summer season.

The RNLI lifeguards received 246 calls for assistance in 2019, with 114 related to weaver fish stings, according to Jersey Coastguard’s annual report.

Although there is no data for where the stings happened, it is thought the majority occurred at the weaver-fish hotspots of Plémont and Grève de Lecq. As well as being extremely painful, a sting can cause swelling, numbness, nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases, unconsciousness.

Jake Elms, lead lifeguard supervisor for Jersey, said: ‘It happens very often – sometimes ten people can be stung in one day on the same beach.

‘The pain can be quite intense but usually dies down after about half an hour,’ he added. ‘Stings should be treated by immersing the area in water as hot as you can stand which will break down the protein-based venom. If you think you’ve stood on one, seek the help of the RNLI lifeguards on duty who are used to treating them.

‘Although weaver fish stings make up the majority of the minor first aid incidents the lifeguards deal with on the beaches, preventing incidents happening in the first place is the team’s priority and the lifeguards spend the majority of their time advising beachgoers on the safest place to swim, surf and bodyboard and of potential hazards. Should someone get into trouble in the water the lifeguards are there to respond quickly to bring them to safety.’

The beach lifeguards, who also operate between Le Braye and the Watersplash in St Ouen’s Bay and St Brelade’s Bay, dealt with 30 rip current incidents and 11 surfing and body-boarding call-outs, according to the report.

Separately, Jersey Coastguard co-ordinated 170 incidents last year, representing a 12% drop on 2018. The most-common call-out related to boats suffering a mechanical failure (42), followed by concern-for-welfare incidents (28), vessels in difficulty, often due to the weather (15) and people being cut off by the tide (10).

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Meanwhile, search and rescue teams were launched 107 times last year – a 20% drop on 2018. The Jersey Lifeboat Association’s vessel was deployed 12 times during 2019 – the organisation’s first year in operation.

The RNLI all-weather lifeboat was deployed 26 times, the St Helier inshore boat 31 times and the St Catherine lifeboat 14.

The Coastguard also increased its sea-safety awareness activities last year. In total, 4,526 primary and secondary school were educated in beach safety and the making of 999 calls.

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