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Lifesavers to drag Fraser Island for stingers

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) will conduct a series of marine stinger drags at Fraser Island on Saturday morning (December 7) following a spate of serious stings in recent weeks.

SLSQ will focus on an area stretching roughly five kilometres along the western side of Fraser Island, from Moon Point through to Woralie Creek, where the majority of recent stings have been recorded. Lifesavers will conduct several stinger drags in creeks as well as various sections of coastline.

SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill ESM said the organisation was hoping to ascertain what type, and the extent, of marine stingers in the waters off Fraser Island.

“A lot of reports have been referring to these stings as coming from Irukandji, but it’s important to recognise there are many different types of marine stinger within that family, and we need more information before we can say with confidence exactly what stinger it is,” he said.

“The presence of Moreton Bay stingers (Morbakka) has been recorded in recent times, and their stings can cause symptoms identical to that of Irukandji syndrome.

“From these drags, we’re hoping to get a greater grasp on the extent of stingers within the water, what specific type they are, and where they’re primarily located.

“That information will be vital when it comes to investigating and implementing strategies for protecting beachgoers in and around the island in the future,” he said.

A sample of specimens caught by SLSQ will be sent to researchers for identification and further testing.

Mr Hill said the recent stings were all grouped on the western side of the island, which is largely shielded from the northerly and southerly winds.

“All of the stings are clumped in calmer waters on that western side of the island, and a lot of them are near river mouths, estuaries or otherwise away from the bigger surf,” he said.

While SLSQ doesn’t have a patrol service on Fraser Island, Mr Hill urged anyone boating, swimming or otherwise entering the water to put safety first at all times.

“While we don’t necessarily know at this point in time what particular type of stingers are in the water, there are still some basic precautions and safety steps that swimmers can take to reduce the risk of a nasty sting,” he said.

“Wearing protective clothing such as a Lycra body suit or a wet suit has proven to be effective and can also act as valuable sun protection,” he said.

Fraser Island stinger safety tips:
– Wear protective clothing (wet suit or Lycra body suit), to reduce exposure to potential stings;
– In the absence of a full Lycra suit, wear other protective clothing such as long pants tucked into socks; and
– Enter water slowly as marine stingers will often swim away from people given the opportunity and time.

What to do if stung on Fraser Island:
1. Do not allow rubbing of sting area
2. Rinse well with sea water
3. Place stung area in hot water (no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate) for 20 minutes
4. If the local pain is unrelieved by heat, or if hot water is not available, apply a cold pack or ice in a dry plastic bag
5. If the patient is experiencing severe pain, or if the sting area is large or involves sensitive areas (e.g. their face, mouth, eyes, neck) dial triple zero or send for medical help.

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