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      Marine animals

      Latest update: - Authors: Ula Maniewski, Nele Alders

      Most marine animals do no harm unless they are threatened or touched. Most injuries resulting from underwater life result in harmless skin lesions, but when wounds occur, they often heal with difficulty. Sometimes a foreign body is left behind (such as a sea urchin sting), or a bacterial infection occurs, and occasionally poison is released. Serious injuries or fatal complications are rare.

      Do not touch anything underwater: not only will you avoid injuries that way, but by doing so you will not damage fragile marine life.


      • Can cause itchy eruptions, sometimes blisters.
      • If you hurt yourself on them, skin wounds can occur that heal with difficulty.
      • Fire coral is not a coral but a polyp. They can cause hives and sometimes blisters.


      Sponges can cause skin rashes. 


      Read more about jellyfish and first aid for jellyfish bites. 


      Anemones can cause skin rashes or blisters.


      Most fish are harmless. Some fish may bite when they feel threatened such as moray eels and trigger fish. Sharks almost never attack, except in a few exceptional places. Stingrays (video on stingray sting prevention) and Pieterman fish only sting as a defence, for example when you accidentally step on them. Some fish are poisonous such as stonefish (in Australia and Indonesia), scorpionfish, lionfish.


      Thornback has poisonous spines. 

      Sea snails

      Some sea snails can be poisonous, for example cone (cone snail).

      Sea urchins 

      Spines can easily break off and remain in the wound.


      A bite from a blue-ringed octopus can release venom. This only happens when the animal feels threatened.

      Sea snakes 

      • Can be venomous and deadly. 
      • They occur In Asia and Australia.

      Where are these animals found?

      • Most venomous marine animals live in tropical waters.
      • Jellyfish, anemones and polyps are found worldwide.
      • Pieterman fish also occur in Europe.
      • The Portuguese Warship is found throughout the tropics, but also in the Mediterranean Sea and sporadically even in the North Sea.
      • The box jellyfish is found in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
      • Stonefish are found in Australia and Indonesia.
      • Sea snakes are found only in the coastal areas of Asia and Australia.


      Do not touch anything

      Also leave corals or stones untouched. Marine life can be damaged by touch (such as corals). Even washed-up jellyfish can still sting.

      Danger zones

      Inform locally if there are any dangerous animals in the sea.

      Dangerous jellyfish

      Read the sheet on jellyfish.

      Foot protection

      Wear water shoes on the beach and in the sea.

      Pay attention

      Be careful and watch out in the water. Do not swim in the sea when it is dark.

      First aid for complaints

      • Disinfect any wound properly to prevent infection.
      • Seek medical help immediately in case of breathing problems, feeling unwell or swelling of face or lips.

      • Hurt on coral? Rinse the wound well and remove all particles. Oxygenated water may help here, then treat with antiseptic or antibiotic ointment.

      • Bruised on a sponge?  Dab the wound dry with vinegar if necessary.

      • Bruised on a crown of thorns? Remove the spines and immerse the wound in warm water.

      • Jellyfish bite: read the sheet on jellyfish.

      • Harpoons or stings in your skin? Remove them with tweezers or by running a debit card close to the skin. Then dab with vinegar to reduce irritation.

      • Stepped on a sea urchin, shell, starfish, stonefish or stingray? Immerse the affected body part in water as hot as possible (45°C) for 30 to 90 minutes.    

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