13 July 2012

How many stonefishes at Sentosa?

How many stonefishes are found on Sentosa's recreational beaches? And does culling venomous fishes reduce envenomation incidents?
Tanah Merah after the oil spill: Hollow-cheek stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
The superbly camouflaged Stonefish is the shore explorer's nightmare!
A fascinating paper "Controlled culling of venomous marine fishes along Sentosa island beaches: A case study of public safety management in the marine environment of Singapore" has just been published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology that shares interesting findings on this question.


I learnt from the paper that out of the total of 6,507 fish caught during the survey, almost 45% were venomous fishes. Of which the majority were rabbitfishes (Family Siganidae).

The survey did catch 100 stonefishes (Synanceja horrida) or 1.5% of the total catch.

Does consistent culling of venomous fishes have any effect on envenomation incidences?

While results indicate that there are no clear correlations between incidences and abundance, average incident rates appeared to decrease during the fifth year when lower averages of venomous fishes were caught. This suggests that the duration of the study is likely to have an effect on incident rates.

From the abstract: The effectiveness of culling as a method for population control has received much controversy over the last few decades. A five year study investigating the effectiveness of removing venomous fishes along beaches of a popular resort island to provide improved public safety found that six venomous fish families contributed to 44.6% of total fish abundance, and that siganids and plotosids were the most abundant among venomous fishes. Though no strong correlations were found between venomous fish captures and envenomation occurrences, there appeared to be a significant decrease in venomous fish abundances during the fifth and last year of sampling which coincided with decreased envenomation events. It is suggested that the increasing visitorship over the last five years plays an important factor on incidences and that continued surveys will yield greater insight into the effectiveness of this method.

Read more in Controlled culling of venomous marine fishes along Sentosa island beaches: A case study of public safety management in the marine environment of Singapore. Jeffrey T. B. Kwik.  [pdf, 523 KB]

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