A British expat has discovered hundreds of stranded “evil eyes” puffer fish, each armed with a poison more deadly than cyanide.
Tess Gridley from Sheffield encountered the mass stranding at Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town, South Africa while out walking with her family.
Now the South African government has identified the creature as a deadly evil fish and warned locals to stay away.
Dr. Gridley, a scientist who moved to Africa in 2009, estimated hundreds had washed up.
“The beach is 200 meters from our house and we were on a family walk,” she said.
“I can’t say how many there were as I only looked in a small area – I was with my kids and dog preparing for field work so it was a quick visit.
“But if you had counted it would have exceeded hundreds.”
A statement from the South African Ministry of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said the species had a killer neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin.
It is a more deadly poison than cyanide and leads to death from respiratory failure after paralysis of the diaphragm.
The ministry’s statement said: “The fish mortality in False Bay consists entirely of evil-eyed puffer fish, with 300 to 400 dead fish per km of coastline.
“These dead fish all carry the deadly neurotoxin tetrodotoxin and should not be eaten. Death usually comes from cardiac arrest.
“Beach dog walkers are strongly advised to keep their pets away from them. If the dog eats a puffer fish in whole or in part, it must immediately induce vomiting and take its pet to the veterinarian. “
According to the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, a local NGO, a dog has already been killed as a result of the mass stranding.
In the meantime, the cause of the incident remains a mystery.
Previous mass beaches were caused by red tides – an algal bloom that changes the color of the water and produces natural toxins.
However, the ministry’s statement states, “There have been no reports of adverse water conditions or red tide toxins that could have caused this.”
It is also possible that the fish were blown ashore after they were puffed up, either during mass advertising or in response to large waves.
In any case, Dr. Gridley, who studies marine life as part of the Sea Search organization, that the public must play a role in future strandings.
“Look out and report what you see,” said the mother of two.
“Don’t be alarmed, these events occur from time to time in natural systems.
“Citizen scientists are now playing an important role in reporting these events on social media. We learn much more about the marine environment today from such reports.
“Whenever possible, collect photos and videos that will help you identify species and gain interesting insights into life in our oceans.”