In an emergency, call TRIPLE ZERO (000)

Marine Stingers

There are several species of marine stingers found in the waters at Queensland beaches. These include the ‘box jellyfish’ and the irukandji, which are classed as dangerous tropical marine stingers.

While marine stingers may be present throughout the entire year in tropical Queensland, the risk associated with these two types of potentially dangerous jellyfish are higher during the ‘marine stinger season’ that typically runs from November through to May.

During these warmer months, it is of particular importance to swim only at a patrolled beach under the guidance and supervision of lifesavers and lifeguards.

North Queensland

Wide Bay Capricorn

South East Queensland


Types of Marine Stingers

Carybdea

Common Name: Jimple

Photo of Carybdea

Distribution

Distribution in Australian waters

Size and Appearance

Size relative to human

First Aid

Photo of swimmer receiving first aid

Symptoms

Minor skin irritation only.

Treatment

All jellyfish stings north of Agnes Water should be doused with vinegar and the casualty to remain out of the water.

  • Remove casualty from water if safe to do so
  • Commence first aid as required (DRSABCD)
  • Remove any adhering tentacles
  • Wash area with sea water (not freshwater)
  • Place the sting area in hot water for 20 minutes (no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate)
  • If local pain is unrelieved by heat or if hot water is not available, apply a cold pack or ice in a bag
  • If pain persists or is generalised, or if the sting area is large or involves sensitive areas (e.g. the eyes), dial triple zero (000) and seek assistance from lifesavers/lifeguards if available

Safety Tips

Prevention

  • Always swim at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags
  • Look for and obey safety signs
  • Don’t enter the water when beaches are closed
  • Ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for help and advice if you need it
  • Don’t touch marine stingers washed up on the beach, they can still sting you

In tropical waters, it is also recommended that you take these additional measures:

  • Swim in the stinger nets where provided
  • Wear a full-body lycra suit to provide a good measure of protection against marine stings, particularly during the stinger season. If you are unable to wear a stinger suit, a rash vest is advisable.
  • Enter the water slowly – this can give marine stingers time to move away

Enclosures

There are approximately 30 marine stinger enclosures on North Queensland beaches; most are operated by Uninet Enclosures. They have a mesh size of 25mm and are designed to exclude large box jellyfish.

They do not exclude small segments of box jellyfish or irukandji. When swimming inside marine stinger enclosures it is important not to play on or sink the float surrounding the net as there is potential for you to expose not only yourself but other members of the public to harmful marine stingers that may swim over the top of the float.

Enclosures are generally operated from November to May during stinger season.

Photo of a beach with a marine stinger enclosure

Patrolled locations that have swimming enclosure are;

Port Douglas, Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Clifton Beach, Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Bramston Beach, Etty Bay, Mission Beach, South Mission Beach, Forrest Beach, Balgal Beach, Pallarenda Beach, The Strand, Strand South, Picnic Bay, Holloways Beach, Bucasia.

Protective lagoons are provided at Cairns, Thuringowa and Airlie Beach.


It is recommended that individuals entering the water at Queensland beaches north of Bustard Heads wear protective swimwear designed specifically to reduce the incidence of a marine sting.
The protective swimwear should be within the following parameters:

  • A mesh size no greater than 200 microns (200/1000th of a mm or 1/5 of a mm)
  • Opaque clothing which offers a high degree of sun protection
  • Synthetic smooth fabrics are preferable (rather than cotton) as there is less of a chance that tentacles will stick, possibly leading to secondary marine stings
  • Heat-retention properties should be appropriate to the environment
  • Clothing that covers over 75% of the body’s skin surface, i.e. a full-body Lycra suit or equivalent which will provide a reasonable measure of protection from life-threatening marine stings
Photo of a swimmer wearing a protective swimsuit

It is important for swimmers not to rely on standard stinger protective swimwear to provide adequate protection during times of heavy marine stinger infestation. Protective swimwear should also be regularly inspected for holes, loose threading, broken or damaged zippers and other causes of decreased effectiveness, and where required replaced or repaired.

It is possible to be stung on exposed skin, such as hands, face and feet, but most stings occur on parts of the body that are typically covered by protective clothing. Be aware of loose or billowing clothing that may trap jellyfish against the skin; tuck in any loose-fitting clothing.

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