The most poisonous fish in British and Irish waters is lurking in the shallow waters at Benone Beach thanks to this year’s particularly warm weather and has already stung one local child.
Local mother Fiona Lagan, from the Benedy area near Dungiven, was at the beach on Saturday with her children when her four-year-old child, Maisie, started crying about a sore foot.
She was in agony. Fiona didn’t know what was wrong with her but, thanks to the assistance of RNLI lifeguards, the culprit was identified as a sting from the weever fish.
In extreme cases, the sting can lead to gangrene and potentially fatal respiratory problems have been reported in the past but, thankfully, little Maisie is now feeling fine.
The fish has sharp spines laced with venom along its dorsal fin which stick up out of the sand, where it hides, and inflict agony on any unsuspecting bathers unlucky enough to tread on one.
The pain usually last for hours without treatment, is excruciating, and causes irritation that can last for weeks.
“The lifeguards knew straight away what it was - a weever fish - because someone else had been stung by one in the past few days,” Fiona explained.
“We got back to the car and Maisie was crying and crying, squealing out of her, and I didn’t know what was wrong. I looked at her foot and there was no cut or anything. At first I thought it was broken glass or something she might have stood on.
“I didn’t know what to do so I did what anybody does in those situations - I called Mammy. I told her on the phone that I didn’t know what to do.
“I didn’t want to be bothering the lifeguards because I thought they were only really there to deal with drownings and those sort of things but they were really helpful.”
Fiona posted her thanks to the lifeguards at Benone, as well as a warning about the dangers of the weever fish, which has generated a great deal of interest in the local area.
“I looked it up on Google when I got home and it said ‘the most poisonous fish in Britain’. When I seen that I thought, ‘trust Maisie to stand on it’.
“It’s just one of those things and it could happen to anyone.
“A friend of mine told me that her husband stood on one and he was sick with the pain. It is supposed to be absolutely excruciating.
“The treatment is fairly simple if you are unlucky enough to be stung. Just soak your foot in as warm of water as you can stand and that helps get rid of the toxins. That’s what the lifeguards did and within about fifteen minutes Maisie was like a different child.
“I would just encourage anyone going to the beach to think about getting a pair of jelly shoes or an old pair of trainers for the kids, just in case.
“Maisie is fine and well now, thank God, and it won’t put us off going back to Benone.
“Benone is a really great place. We were down with them at Crindle Stables in Magilligan and we decided to take them on down to Benone. They had a ball down at the beach and there is no way we will let this put us off going back.”
The weever fish spends its time in warm, shallow waters.