Scare as deadly stonefish found at old port of Mombasa cityUpdated Monday, November 26th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3
By Linah Benyawa
Visitors to beaches in the coastal city of Mombasa will now have to keep a watchful eye following the emergence of a stonefish.
Authorities have issued a stern warning saying the heavily poisonous fish has washed up the shores of Mombasa’s old port, occasioning a scare among fisheries authorities, swimmers and consumers.
Foreign and local tourists visiting the Kenyan Coast this festive season have been cautioned to be careful while at the beaches after the venomous species of fish was found at the sea.
Belonging to the marine genus Synanceia, the stonefish delivers a poison or neurotoxin that is fatal to humans through glands in its dorsal fin.
A fish biologist, Rashid Anam, warned on Sunday that this is “the most venomous fish in the world”, with its sting being highly dangerous and “known to cause death”.
Anam, a marine scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute, warned on Sunday that the most vulnerable victims of the fish’s sting are swimmers because the stonefish is a master of camouflage.
He said most victims are reef walkers while clad in either flimsy shoes or without shoes.
“Those visiting the beaches should be very cautious and should not walk barefooted since the fish sometimes buries itself in sand and once stepped on, the sting is poisonous leading to death if one is not treated immediately,” he added.
On Sunday, fishermen at the old port of Mombasa netted the fish and immediately warned swimmers about the looming danger.
The fish, which had human-like features such as a nose, two eyes and a mouth, shocked locals.
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Characteristics of the stonefish
It is the most venomous fish known and is up to 35 centimetres long.
Synanceia are primarily marine, though some species are known to live in rivers.
Its species have potent neurotoxins secreted from glands at the base of their needle-like dorsal fin spines that stick up when disturbed or threatened.
The vernacular name of the species, the stonefish, derives from the stonefish’s ability to camouflage itself with a grey and mottled colour similar to the natural colour of stones. They often cannot be seen easily as they look similar to rocks or coral.
Swimmers may not notice them and may inadvertently step on them, triggering poisoning.
When the stonefish is disturbed, it may inject an amount of venom proportional to the amount of pressure applied to it.
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