A BRITISH man has died after being bitten by a sea snake on a fishing trawler in Australia’s top end.
Police said the 23-year-old British backpacker was bitten while pulling up a net onto the trawler near the island of Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, about 12.30pm on Thursday.
Emergency services, including a CareFlight helicopter and nearby ships, were dispatched to the boat but sadly there was nothing they could do to save the man.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
The crew member was taken to the Northern Territory’s mainland town of Borroloola where he was officially pronounced deceased.
Northern Territory Police confirmed the British Embassy had been notified and said a post-mortem would be conducted on the man’s body.
NT WorkSafe has also been notified and is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.
It’s believed to be the first time anyone has died after being bitten by a sea snake in Australia.
According to the Marine Education Society of Australia (MESA), there have been no previous recorded deaths from sea snake bites in Australian waters.
“Most sea snake bites occur on trawlers when the snakes are sometimes hauled in with the catch,” the MESA says on its website.
“Only a small proportion of bites are fatal to humans as it is rare for much venom to be injected.”
The Marine Education Society said sea snakes are among the most venomous creatures on the planet.
All species are extremely venomous but most are considered to be non-aggressive and because of their limited contact with humans, bites are relatively rare.
Adults grow between 120 and 150cm, while the largest species is known to grow up to three metres.
More than 30 species are found in tropical waters off the coast of Queensland and the Northern Territory, while some are known to live in cooler waters as far south as Victoria and Tasmania.
While the bite itself may not be painful and could go unnoticed, within 30 minutes the victim will be overcome by stiffness, muscle aches and spasms of the jaw along with sudden pain in the affected area.
This is followed blurred vision, drowsiness and finally respiratory paralysis.
Statistics released by the National Coronial Information Service in March last year show 35 people died after being bitten by a land snake in Australia between 2000 and 2016.
The deadly eastern brown was responsible for 23, or 65 per cent, of those deaths.