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Byron Shire
March 1, 2024

Bumper crop of stingrays, bluebottles float into town

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Stan Ceglinski describes himself as having a ‘high pain threshold’, but he wasn’t prepared for a stingray encounter during his regular swim at South Golden Beach two weeks ago.

‘The lifesavers had the flags up and it was in between the flags, just where the ramp goes down into the water.

Stung! Stan Ceglinski.

‘I was up to just past my knees… ready to dive under the first wave, and I stood on something kind of jellyfish-like, but harder than jellyfish, a bit squirmy.

‘The instant I stood on it and felt something foreign, I felt something sharp.

‘I walked out of the water, there was blood coming out, then the pain started escalating.’

Mr Ceglinski had copped a stingray barb to the foot – a first in his 42 years of swimming at South Golden Beach.

It seems an unusually large number of stingrays have been visiting north coast beaches.

Doron Milner, a volunteer surf life saver at Brunswick Heads main beach, said he responded to two stingray injuries on his patrol on Saturday, 23 January.

‘It is quite unusual to get stung and it is definitely unusual to have so many in such a short period,’ Mr Milner said. ‘I’ve probably only dealt with another two in the 10 years I’ve patrolled.’

Watch out for stingrays. Photo Sonia Friedrich

Mr Milner warned that at Brunswick Heads a shallow channel had developed with warmer water, which was attractive for beachgoers but was also prime real estate for stingrays.

More bluebottles too

Meanwhile, many bluebottles were also carried ashore in the last week by north to north-easterly winds, according to Steve Mills, the Far North Coast Lifeguard Supervisor for Surf Life Saving NSW.

‘In both shires, Byron Shire and Ballina Shire, there were quite a few [bluebottle stings] on Australia Day,’ Mr Mills said.

Mr Mills said onshore winds and warmer water were also responsible for more stingrays, especially juveniles which come closer to shore to feed.

‘Over the holidays in Byron there were about 10 incidents of stingray stings that were treated,’ Mr Mills said.

What to do if you’re stung

Hot water should be used to neutralise a bluebottle sting. Urine or vinegar aren’t recommended.

For bluebottles, Mr Mills said the first step was to remove the sting with your fingertips and have a fresh water shower.

The water should be as warm as you can handle, as hot water over 30 degrees will neutralise the protein in the sting.

After that, ice can be used to numb pain in the area.

For a stingray barb in the foot, Mr Mills recommended putting your foot in a bucket of hot water and dishwashing liquid to neutralise the sting.

However, that should be followed by a trip to the emergency department in case pieces of the barb remain in your foot.

Doron Milner said life savers will always direct stingray barb cases to the hospital as stingray barbs are jagged, like a fish hook, and can break off and cause infection.

‘We don’t recommend the patient takes it out,’ Mr Milner said.

But preventative measures are best: beachgoers should do the ‘stingray shuffle’ in the water with their feet to make some noise and frighten the animals away.

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