Teenager dies snorkelling after venomous fish encounter off Costa Brava beach

A 16-year-old was killed while snorkelling off Platja d’Aro in Catalonia after an encounter with a venomous weever fish.

Teenager dies snorkelling after venomous fish encounter off Costa Brava beach
Stock photo: District47/Flickr

The boy, who has not been publically named, suffered anaphylactic shock and died on Saturday afternoon while on a family trip to the beach.

His parents raised the alarm after he disappeared while snorkelling and he was found unconscious nearby by bathers and brought to shore.

Initial post-mortem results show the teenager had a tiny wound on his neck, above his windpipe, and scratches on his face.

His parents told local media that he had been filming marine life with a waterproof camera and that footage retrieved by investigators suggested he had been stung by a weever fish.

“He had been following a jellyfish about 100 metres offshore which led him to a strange and colourful fish with a harmless-looking face,” according to a statement from the parents quoted in La Vanguardia.

“He was only able to film it for 30 seconds from a distance and at the last second it disappeared and stung him around the jaw area.”

A post-mortem has been carried out in nearby Girona where forensic staff are awaiting toxicology results.

The fish has been identified locally as a spotted weever (rachinus araneusa) a species that carries venom in its dorsal spines and buries itself in sand on the seabed.

Photo by Roberto Pillon/creative commons/

They are usually hard to spot and have been known to deliver painful stings to swimmers feet who unknowingly step in them when paddling in shallow water.

But although they can provoke a severe allergic reaction and in rare cases provoke heart attacks such stings rarely prove fatal because those who step on them can usually reach the safety of the shore before drowning.

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Environmental crime: Spanish town sparks row after spraying beach with bleach to fight virus

A Cadiz town is mired in controversy over the fumigation of its beaches with bleach so local children can enjoy them during the deescalation of COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Environmental crime: Spanish town sparks row after spraying beach with bleach to fight virus
Photo: Jacinto Perez / Flickr

The  decision was taken jointly by the Neighborhood Board of Zahara de los Atunes and Association of Merchants in order to – theoretically – make the area safer for children finally leaving the house after weeks of confinement, but is being called an “environmental crime” by environmental groups.

The move has already been denounced by the Andalusian government and heavily criticised as the bodies responsible lack the authority to make such a decision, and legal action could be on the horizon as it is feared the tractors that went on the beach for fumigation could have damaged local wildlife.

Indeed some tractors have been found to have traces of plover’s eggs, which at this time of the year are in the height of breeding season.

“It seems incredible that these things still happen, a madness against the beach itself” says María Dolores Iglesias, president of the Association of Environmental Volunteers Trafalgar.

She explained that locals only became aware of what she calls the “ecological attack” after a local informed them that the “plovers they were taking care of were being killed by the men with the tractors.”

The story quickly circulated on social media and faced with public outrage, the president of the Autonomous Local Entity of Zahara de los Atunes, Agustín Conejo, was forced in a statement to the press in which he said the beach was sprayed with bleach with the intention of protecting children wanting to enjoy the coast, buthe admits that it was wrong thing to do.

Environmentalists are not convinced by this explanation, however, and believe the move could have been economically motivated. The fumigated area was not the town's local urban beach, but two kilometers away from the point where any children would have been using the beach.

Indeed it has emerged that one of the men responsible for the decision, the President of the Merchants Association, is a local hotelier; environmental groups believe the fumigation supposedly on behalf of children was, in fact, an attempt to “try to guarantee that the area is free of covid-19 for the summer” for economic purposes.

The area boasts some of the best wild beaches in Cádiz and faced with both the physical quarantine of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown it has caused, it seems plausible there is more to the fumigation than organisers have revealed.

Andalusian Government delegate for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Daniel Sánchez, has called for “a bit of good sense”. 

By Conor Faulkner