Hazardous Marine Life

October 29, 2014

Okinawa offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba-diving in the world. The ocean is filled vast amounts of marine life only found here. With all recreational hobbies there are hazards to be concerned with. Okinawa has a large amount of hazardous marine life and most of it is found in very shallow water.

Ways to avoid getting injured by hazardous marine life:
Be respectful to all the marine life.
Avoid harassing or touching the marine life.
limit your distance to the subject.
Maintain good buoyancy control.
Stay protected by wearing felt bottom booties, gloves, wetsuit and a dive skin.

The Lion fish is beautiful but a very dangerous fish. The spines deliver a painful sting with strong venom injected into the body.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek immediate medical treatment.

Most sea urchin injuries are due to people accidentally stepping on them in shallow surf. Wearing proper footwear decreases your chances of getting injured.

Treatment: Remove visible spines, monitor the wound and seek medical treatment if infection occurs.

Moray eels deliver a viscous bite with razor sharp teeth. In some cases the eels latch on and do not let go. Avoid placing hands into holes and feeding the eels.

Treatment: Control the bleeding and seek medical treatment.

The crown of thorn starfish has sharp pointed spines that deliver a painful sting. The spines inject venom which cause extreme pain, discomfort and possible nausea.  Most injuries occur because divers are cutting up the starfish with a dive knife and a spine accidentally penetrates the hand. The starfish has a purpose in the ecosystem so leave it alone.

Treatment: Remove spines if possible and seek medical treatment.

The blue ringed octopus is one of the most beautiful marine animals. It is only the size of a golf ball, but is extremely venomous if bitten. Avoid picking up this shallow water octopus.

Treatment: Monitor Airway, Breathing and Circulation and seek immediate medical treatment.

Fire corals are calcareous hydozoans that deliver a painful sting. Avoid touching or rubbing against it.

Treatment: Rinse with saltwater and apply topical vinegar. Apply a thin layer of hydro-cortisone cream to the affected area Seek medical treatment if infection occurs.

The reef stone fish is a master of camouflage. They look just like a rock blending into the coral reef. The spines deliver a painful sting with strong venom injected into the body.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek immediate medical treatment. Can be deadly!

Cone shells are sought after by many shell collectors for their beauty. The marine snail injects venom with a harpoon shaped tooth.

Treatment: Immediate medical treatment without delay

Geographic cone (Gastridium geographusThe scorpion fish is another master of camouflage. The spines deliver a painful sting with strong venom injected into the body. These fish will usually warn you of their presence by flaring out their fins and spines.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek immediate medical treatment.

Stinging hydroids (fireweeds) are common in Okinawa. They are all avoidable as long as you do not touch or rub up against any. The hydroids deliver a painful sting .

Treatment: Rinse with saltwater and apply topical vinegar or isopropyl alcohol. Apply a thin layer of hydro-cortisone cream to the affected area.  Seek medical treatment if infection occurs.

Sea snakes will not harm you unless provoked. I have never heard of any divers being bitten in Okinawa. Rare cases have occurred with fisherman removing their catch from nets and they were bitten on the hand.

Treatment: Immediate medical treatment.

The cockatoo waspfish is a venomous fish found in shallow water. It resembles a leaf and blends in with debris very well. The spines deliver a painful sting.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek immediate medical treatment.

Cockatoo waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus)The fire urchin is the most beautiful sea urchin in the waters of Okinawa. Its beautiful colors attract divers to pick it up. The spines inject venom which cause extreme pain and discomfort.

Treatment: Remove visible spines, monitor the wound and seek medical treatment if infection occurs.

The bristle worm is also know as the fire worm. It delivers a powerful sting when threatened. The bristle like spines inject venom which cause extreme pain and discomfort.

Treatment: Remove visible spines, monitor the wound and seek medical treatment if infection occurs.

The eeltail catfish is a venomous saltwater fish found in shallow water. They usually travel in large numbers at night. The spines deliver a painful sting.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek medical treatment if needed.

Sea anemones deliver a painful sting with venomous tentacles.  Below is a photograph of the viscous predator Dofleinia armata. I had these anemones in my aquarium for three years. During that time I have seen them feeding on lion fish, scorpion fish, and venomous cone snails.

Treatment: Apply topical vinegar and remove tentaclesSeek medical treatment if infection or occurs.

The titan triggerfish is one of the most aggressive fish I have encountered. It is extremely territorial and will guard its nest aggressively. Attacks can be severe leaving wounds requiring stitches.  On several occasions I have pointed a dive light in their direction and it scared them off. They do not like the directional light for some reason.

Treatment: Control the bleeding and seek medical treatment.

The coral rabbitfish is a sought after fish in Okinawa. Fisherman and free divers often get injured handling this venomous fish. The spines deliver a painful sting.

Treatment: Soak limb in very hot water and seek medical treatment if needed.

The Box Jellyfish delivers an unbearable sting with its venomous tentacles. These stings require immediate treatment and can be life threatening

Treatment: Apply vinegar as soon as possible and remove tentacles carefully. Monitor ABC’S and seek Immediate medical treatment.

Safety first or pay the worst!
Have a great day!