Cleaner Waters Rewarded with Poisonous Fish

October 5, 2008

Poisonous Greater Weever Fish, Found in the River Thames in EnglandWade in the water at your own risk in Tilbury, Essex, in Southern England. Due to lower pollution in the River Thames, environmentalists say that (good news) 60 species of fish have returned to the cleaner waters — and (bad news) the greater weever (Trachinus draco), which has venomous spines lining its dorsal fins and which grows up to 20 inches long, is one of them, having turned up in the Thames for the first time. The less-than-lovely weever lurks in sand and, when stepped on, ejects poison from its spines into the feet of unfortunate bathers. The venom causes pain, redness and swelling for up to two weeks.

The Poisonous Greater Weever Fish, With a Face Only a Mother Could Love

Greater weevers — nicely camouflaged with a sandy color — display only their fins until they jump out to eat small fish and invertebrates. They have large heads and intimidating-looking teeth. But the teeth aren’t the half of it. Step on one of the spines and a jet of toxin spurts up through your skin. Since the poison breaks down at temperatures of 104 F. and higher, the best treatment is to soak the afflicted foot in hot water. Of course, since one is at the beach to enjoy cooling water on a summer day, there is no ready supply of. . .hot water.

The discovery of the greater weever was made during a two-year study into fish populations in the Thames undertaken by the Environment Agency and London’s Zoological Society. Tom Cousins, an Environment Agency spokesman, said: “Fish have been coming back. In the 1950s, there were some areas that were dead — there were no fish at all because of sewage discharges and industrial pollution. But now we have around 125 species.” Matthew Gollock, conservation project manager of the Zoological Society’s Thames conservation project, was delighted by the greater weever’s arrival, remarking that “the discovery of this new species and the blossoming diversity of fish are hugely indicative of the renaissance of the estuary.” Other unusual species found in the tidal Thames between Tilbury and Fulham include the edible olive-yellow John Dory fish and the short-nosed seahorse.

Have fun out there. Read a more cheerful canine love story.

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