x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Beware, snakes on our beaches

Swimmers and beach-goers are cautioned not to touch poisonous sea snakes as their numbers increase in the cool winter months.

Sea snakes, which are poisonous. are common from November to February.
Sea snakes, which are poisonous. are common from November to February.

ABU DHABI // Swimmers and beach-goers are being cautioned not to touch highly poisonous sea snakes as their numbers increase in the cool winter months. The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) issued the warning after a member of the public found one of the creatures washed ashore on a beach in the capital. Sea snakes are commonly sighted in Abu Dhabi's shallow coastal waters from November to February as they move away from their summer domain of deeper waters. Strong shamal winds can bring the snakes to shore, where they lie motionless on the sand, as if dead.

"Sea snakes have weak spines and so become helpless [on the beach] and appear as if they are dead," said Thabit al Abdessalaam, EAD director of marine environment. They are probably waiting for the tide to take them back to sea, or could be dazed and weakened after being carried by rough waters. In both cases, they will probably try to bite if handled. However, sea snakes are usually placid and will only attack if provoked or their young are in danger.

In Abu Dhabi, sea snakes are mostly sighted off Marawah Island, Jernain Island and Abu Dhabi island. Simply spotting one should not be a cause for concern, said Nasser al Shaiba, a marine specialist at the Tourism Development and Investment Company. "They are not like desert snakes, they will not chase you and they are not fast chasers under the water," he said. vtodorova@thenational.ae