by Lois Jones
Photo: C Veny
AN increasing number of bathers at beaches along the eastern coast of the island have been complaining that they have been bitten or stung by a fish which has yet to be identified. From the end of July this year, but above all during the month of August, some beaches and coves along the east coast have seen an increase in unfamiliar species of fish in the shallower waters, stinging and biting bathers. The principal theories about the appearance of these fish point to the heat wave and the effect that it has had on the Mediterranean waters.
A simple sting would not have raised the voice of alarm from dozens of people who were swimming in the affected areas, were it not for the fact that the biting and stinging was resulting, in some cases, in open wounds. “I was really startled when I got such a nasty bite” commented one bather at Porto Cristo which has been affected by the phenomenon this summer. “Blood from one wound was attracting more fish to the spot, and they were coming in shoals,” he added. Porto Cristo isn't the only place where biting and stinging have been reported. Cala Agulla at Capdepera, Cala los Camps in Artà as well as other beaches and coves in the municipalities of Felanitx and Santanyí are also places where bathers have testified to attack by biting fish. In fact, even the Ministry of Agricutlure and Fisheries has received reports of professional fisherman who have been the victims of such attacks. The Ministry comments: “the culprits are possibly a species of fish measuring between 2 and 5 centimetres in length known as Sargo (a member of the bream family), and goes on to say that: “although the Mediterranean is a breeding ground for these fish, their size witnessed most recently appears to be larger than normal”. This contrasts with the opinion of the fishermen's association in Porto Cristo. Their head, Juan Antonio Vives, suggested, when asked for his group's opinion on the unusual reported attacks, that these fish may be barracuda. “Barracuda are carnivorous fish with extremely sharp, pointed teeth, traditionally inhabiting shallow waters. During winter months, local fishermen have caught them inside the harbour area of Porto Cristo itself but they are not usually about in summer” confirmed Vives, who added that the higher water temperatures “could have encouraged their coming in closer to the shallower water of the beaches and coves”. At the beginning of the summer it was the jellyfish; later a bloom of plankton on the Migjorn coast and now it seems that bathers have to put up with fish that bite. The introduction, and gradual growth in the number of species that thrive in warmer waters, could be one of the causes of the abnormal proliferation of this fish around beaches on the Island's East coast. A representative from a Sea Science Institute has confirmed the existence of the fish but says that no studies have been made of this particular species. It is possible that creatures that would normally thrive in tropical waters where temperatures have been traditionally higher than those of the Mediterranean, are now appearing in numbers in the Balearics.

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Jay / Hace 3 months

More like Annular Bream I had loads eating me in Sant Tomas last week 26/8/2021

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Fergie Fulton / Hace over 4 years

I got bite/stung twice at Cala Morlanda within an hour of each other. First one was while snorkling in deeper water on the south side of Cala Morlanda, i got bite/stung on the side just under the arm pit. I came out and checked it, it was hived and itchy so i bathed it in seawater until the itching became less. I put on a dive shirt and went back in, all was good but on leaving in waist deep water i got bite/stung again on the back of my lower leg. Again i looked around but could dee nothing. Again i bathed it, agin it was hived and itching. Once the itching decreased i got out, dried off and again i had the red marks of contact with something.

As i had to cycle back to Cala Bona, i took an antihistamine in case the effort of peddling pumped any toxins quicker around my body due to the two attacks.

Nothing happened and i got back safe, but it was a strange experience and next time i will wear a full suit to snorkel those coves.

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TheTurners / Hace over 4 years

While holidaying at PortoColom I was bitten in the sea. It was more like a sharpe needle going in but it drew blood and made me jump! There was a small fast swimming bream type fish swimming around the shallows but I feel it would be unfair to blame it straight away. However it was uncomfortable enough to make me leave the sea and check my leg!

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Angelique / Hace over 4 years

I am currently in Ibiza where myself, mother and partner have been bitten a few times in the sea and witnessed other swimmers also bitten we won't swim in there anymore as it's quite painful when it keeps happening.

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Julie anderson / Hace over 5 years

As regular visitors and home owner in Mallorca our favourite beach is mondrago. Back in September my father in law was swimming here when he abruptly left the sea with a "bite" on his leg. We dismissed this claim as we thought he caught it on something. Today my husband raced out of the sea after a nasty bite (bleeding)to his leg at the same beach!! Obviously after reading your article I now know my father in law and husband are two more victims on this "biting fish " list ! Please tell me they will go away soon .....

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