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What lurks beneath Cyprus waters

The recent reports of lionfish being spotted in the waters of Cyprus have alarmed some, but they are not the only danger lurking in Cyprus’ idyllic waters according to Fisheries Department official Nicolas Michaelides and marine biologist Demetris Kletou of the Environmental Research Lab in Limassol.

“The Fisheries Department has prepared a poster which is available on our website listing poisonous fish in Cyprus waters, listing the fish and general characteristics, and treatment,” said Michaelides.


Poisonous fish found in Cyprus’ waters, include:

(Lagocephalus sceleratus).

It contains the toxin tetrodotoxin TTX in its peptic system. Consuming the fish without removing its liver and reproductive organs may result in death as just 1mg of the toxin can prove fatal. Symptoms of poisoning include numbness to the lips and tongue, paraesthesia of the face and the limbs, stomach pains and vomiting, paralysis, respiratory problems. There’s no known antitoxin for TTX.

Greater Weaver (Trachinus draco) 

The first dorsal fin has two spines with venom glands attached to them.  Contact with the spine results in localised pain, but eventually, the pain moves throughout the body. Severe swelling and redness are experienced around the area of the sting. Fever and respiratory problems will be experienced. Treatment for stings requires bleeding the wound and applying vinegar, lowering the wound temperature and bathing in salt water.  Medical attention should be sought even if these measures are taken.

Red scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa) 

It has venomous spines on its dorsal fin. Treatment of stings received by these fish is the same as that of the weaver.

Red Sea Rabbit fish (Siganus rivulatus) 

It has many poisonous barbs along its dorsal fin. Stings from the rabbit fish result in pain and swelling but not to the extent of that experienced from weaver stings. Treatment of stings is the same as that of the weaver.

Dusky Rabbit fish or Marbled spinefoot (Siganus Luridus) 

It shares the same characteristics to the Red Sea rabbit fish. Again, treatment of stings should be the same as that for weaver stings.

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) 

Sunfish like the Silverstripe Blaasop contain the toxin tetrodotoxin. The same symptoms of poisoning are experienced as in the case of the silverstripe blaasop, and immediate medical treatment should be sought.



Lionfish are known for their venomous fin rays. In humans, the venom can cause systemic effects such as extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, convulsions, dizziness, redness on the affected area, headache, numbness, pins and needles, diarrhoea, and sweating. Fatalities are common in very young children, the elderly, those with a weak immune system, or those who are allergic to their venom. Their venom is rarely fatal to healthy adults.

Demetris Kletou of the Environmental Research Lab in Limassol points to other hidden dangers lurking in the water, such as jellyfish, which although do exist, are small in numbers due to the poor levels of plankton, their source of food, in the Mediterranean. Although rare, possible outbreaks of jellyfish can occur during the spring and autumn months.


Jellyfish have many long thin tentacles covered in venomous stinging cells with which they catch their prey. Bathers stung by medusa should seek immediate medical treatment.

The goals of first aid for uncomplicated stings are to deactivate the nematocysts and remove tentacles attached to the patient. Deactivating the nematocysts (stinging cells) prevents further injection of venom. Vinegar (3–10% aqueous acetic acid) may be used as a common remedy to help with box jellyfish stings.

Fire worms 

Fire worms look like centipedes. They are not considered a threat to humans unless touched by a careless swimmer. The bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. Application and removal of adhesive tape will help remove the spines; applying isopropanol may help alleviate the pain.


Most stingrays have one or more barbed stingers on the tail, which are used exclusively in self-defence. The stinger may reach a length of approximately 35 cm (14 in), and its underside has two grooves with venom glands. The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin, in which the venom is concentrated.

Stingrays do not aggressively attack humans, though stings do normally occur if a ray is accidentally stepped on.  Contact with the stinger causes local trauma (from the cut itself), pain, swelling, muscle cramps from the venom, and later may result in infection from bacteria or fungus. The barb usually breaks off in the wound, and surgery may be required to remove the fragments. Fatal stings are very rare, but can happen.

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