A Shell Cove mother is warning others to be vigilant at the beach after her young son dug up a deadly blue-ringed octopus at The Farm beach in Killalea State Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Seven-year-old Ashton Moran was digging in the sand at the water’s edge while his older brother Riley was having a surf lesson, when he unknowingly scooped up the tiny venomous creature.
Stuck to his hand, he flung it off onto the sand. The group of children he had been playing with coming over to have a look at what he’d shaken off.
But curiosity soon turned to fear when Ashton’s parents Suzy and Lee came over from where they were standing and noticed the distinctive blue rings beginning to show.
“I went to check out what they were looking at, and realised it was a blue-ringed octopus,” Mrs Moran said. “But I still didn’t realise the dangers until we Googled it.”
It was then that Mr Moran phoned Killalea State Park manager Nathan Cattell who confirmed it was an adult blue-ringed octopus before removing it and taking it up to the northern end of the beach where he released it near the rocks.
Mr Cattell said blue-ringed octopus were fairly common along the southern coast but they were rarely seen.
“This was the first one I’ve seen in the three and a half years since I’ve been here,” Mr Cattell said.
He said octopus were normally spotted in and around rock pools and it was unusual for one to be on the beach.
“We’ve had big swells lately and it may have been attached to the weed and come in with that. I think it was just stuck on the beach and would have got washed back out with the next swell.”
Realising that a bite could be painless yet potentially fatal, Mr Moran rushed Ashton to Shellharbour hospital where he was assessed before being transferred to Wollongong where he spent the night under observation.
“We were not sure whether he had been bitten or not so they had to monitor him for respiratory failure. Luckily he was fine,” Mrs Moran said.
The Moran’s are calling for more education and possibly even warning signs at beaches about the potential danger posed by blue-ringed octopus.
“People don’t realise the dangers and how fatal they are. I think there needs to be more education about them so parents can warn their kids,” Mrs Moran said.
The Australian Museum website reports Australia has several species of blue-ringed octopus, averaging around five centimetres. Blue-ringed octopuses may ‘‘bite’’ if handled but the bite may not be felt. However, within minutes symptoms include numbness of the lips and tongue, difficulty in breathing, followed by complete paralysis of the breathing muscles.