Stinger Nets: Are They Really Safe to Swim in?

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North Queenslanders rely on stinger net enclosures to provide safe swimming at beaches during the stinger season. But just how reliable are these stinger nets and what do they protect you from?

Stinger net enclosures protect you from box jellyfish. Plain and simple, that’s why they were created.

stinger nets north queenslandBox jellyfish are the world’s deadliest animal, much more deadly than the Irukanji jellyfish.

According to Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, a box jellyfish can kill a child and even a full-grown adult within two to three minutes once it has touched human skin.

For this reason, stinger net enclosures are a constant at beaches across North Queensland between November and May when stinger season is in full swing.

when were they introduced?

jellyfish stinger netsBack in 1982 the council approached James Cook University to design a safe swimming enclosure so people could still enjoy swimming at the beaches in North Queensland without the fear of being stung by box jellyfish.

Today these stinger net enclosures are made, installed and serviced by Uninet Enclosure Systems, which is run by the engineer who initially designed the stinger nets for JCU.

These nets are now used at 28 beaches across Queensland from Port Douglas to Airlie Beach and from Gladstone to the Gold Coast.

At the beginning of each stinger season, usually early November, the nets are installed along the allocated beaches by anchors and machinery. This can sometimes take up to a week to install.

When the season comes to an end in May all the nets are brought back in to be repaired and serviced before going out again the following year. If a cyclone warning is issued during stinger season, the nets are brought back in to avoid being damaged. New nets can cost around $10,000.

how do they work?

IMG_3686The actual stinger nets are made out of a polyethylene, which is similar to the nets used by fishing trawlers.

They are held up by an inflated boom which stops anything coming over the top.

The nets are then weighted down to the seabed with a continuous heavy chain.

Luckily the box jellyfish, which can grow to as large as 30cms, have highly developed senses and eyes on all four sides which enable them to sense the presence of the net before they actually come into contact with it. The jellyfish then swim away from the enclosure without touching it.

how do you know if it’s safe?

beach closed jellyfish The best and most safe time to swim in the stinger nets is when a lifeguard is on patrol at the beach. They always check the enclosures before allowing swimmers in.

The lifeguards also take water samples several times a day to check for the presence of the smaller Irukanji jellyfish. If any are found (or if a person is actually stung), the lifeguard will close the beach for the day until it is considered safe to swim again.

However, not all beaches with stinger nets have a lifeguard patrolling them every day of the week. If you choose to swim in these enclosures when the beach is unmanned, you do so at your own risk.

While the stinger nets are effective at keeping away box jellyfish and sharks, there is no guarantee they will keep out Irukanji jellyfish, or even crocodiles.

On very rare occasions crocodiles have been known to crawl up onto a beach and re-enter the water into an enclosure where they obviously get trapped. If this happens professional wildlife keepers are called to remove it.

So it always pays to be careful!

Thanks to Amanda Brownhill for the photos of the Uninet engineers

travel nq fast facts:

  • The safest enclosures are those manned by a lifeguard
  • Stinger suits also offer good protection for swimming in the sea during stinger season

 

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