Sea Snakes

What do they look like?

Sea snakes look like their land-based relatives, but they
have developed some adaptations to their marine life.
The most obvious is a flattened, paddle-shaped tail
which they use for swimming. Inside, they have a right
lung almost as long as their bodies. This allows them
to spend long periods underwater, but they eventually
have to surface to breathe air. Sea snake species come
in many different colour combinations including black
and yellow, grey, pale brown and black and white.

Where do they live?

Sea snakes live close to shore in warm tropical waters.
Some prefer to live on reefs, while others like mud
flats. Some even swim up rivers and can be found up
to 160km inland.

Why are they dangerous?

Sea snakes have a highly toxic and fast-acting venom,
which they use to catch the fish they eat before they
can get away. If they bite humans, they might not feel
it as the bite is painless. The venom can make you feel
nauseous and dizzy, give you a headache, make you
vomit, make your muscles hurt and in severe cases,
affect the breathing muscles.

How to avoid them?

Sea snakes are curious and are attracted to any sign
of motion in the water. They may approach a diver
or swimmer, but they are shy and usually keep their
distance. If you see one, keep calm and move away
slowly. Don’t touch! The most common bites happen
when fishermen catch them in their nets. Be careful
when handling nets, especially at night.

What to do if you get hurt?

Treatment is the same as for ordinary snake bites.
Call 000, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage,
reassure the casualty and keep them still. Get
medical assistance as soon as possible — there is an
antivenin available.