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Stone Fish – How to Play Safe in the Whitsundays and on the Great Barrier Reef

Updated on June 27, 2019
Karanda profile image

Karen has lived in the Whitsunday Region since 2009. The Great Barrier Reef is a four hour boat ride from where she lives.

Stone Fish


Stone Fish By Name But Not By Nature

A stone fish, just as the name suggests, looks exactly the same as a stone or grey rock but with a mouth. Not the prettiest of creatures and these fish bite worse than they bark. Care needs to be taken walking along the base of the ocean anywhere in the Great Barrier Reef. Recorded injuries are few and far between but only because anyone who has been inflicted has managed to seek medical treatment within a short time of the incident.

The stone fish lays dormant on the ocean floor and disguises itself as a grey or mottled rock. At first glance there is nothing to distinguish the stone fish from any other stone. Great care needs to be taken when walking through the shallows of the Great Barrier Reef as the poisonous barbs on its surface make the stone fish one of the dangerous marine creatures that can turn the holiday of a lifetime into a nightmare.

Stones not stone fish


Play Safe in the Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef and waters of the Whitsundays are full of fascinating creatures but some are quite harmful and should be treated with respect. The stone fish protects itself with poisonous toxins held in its 13 dorsal spines. The poison is released when any of these spines are pressed, mostly when stepped on. Wearing covered shoes with a solid sole will give the perfect protection for anyone wading through the shallows during low tide.

Unless you know the area well it is always safest to stick with guided tours when snorkeling or fishing around the area. The locals are friendly and knowledgeable about everything from weather patterns to fishing spots and perfect underwater adventures to make your stay in Airlie Beach a highlight of any Australian holiday.

Play Safe Take the Tours

Whitsundays - boats to take you to the Great Barrier Reef
Whitsundays - boats to take you to the Great Barrier Reef | Source

Catch of the Day

It's okay to go barefoot when back on the sandy beach
It's okay to go barefoot when back on the sandy beach | Source

Treatment and First Aid for Stone Fish Injury

First aid includes immersing the affected area in hot water. Follow up medical treatment might include local anaesthetic infiltration or an intravenous narcotic analgesic. In severe cases, anti-venom can be administered if there is severe pain, weakness or obvious paralysis of the site.

While there have been a few recorded incidences of serious injury from stone fish though, and only one or two deaths have ever been reported. As long as medical help is sought immediately following the bite or sting, an encounter with a stone fish can be little more than an unpleasant memory.

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef Series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Karen Wilton


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    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Hey thanks @channelwhitsunday, those stone fish sure aren't the prettiest of marine creatures, didn't know about the bad breath theory and sorry about your friend. Glad you are enjoying the Dangerous Marine Creatures Series, it sure has been interesting researching and finding pictures has not always been easy!

    • channelwhitsunday profile image


      9 years ago

      I can't imagine stone fish having too many friends ... 13 dangerous sounds, ugly to boot. I here they suffer from bad fish breath. I have a friend that can't eat seafood anymore courtesy of a stone fish sting. Ouch. Thanks Karanda - really enjoying this series.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for following the dangerous marine creatures series CMHypno. Best advice for dealing with stone fish is prevention though. Tread carefully, especially if the water is murky.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      I'm with you AliciaC, stone fish are interesting but no way do I ever want to encounter one of those. Thank you for your comment, always appreciated.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Thanks b.Malin. There are different types of stone fish found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Most prefer the warmer climates so it is likely you do have them around Florida. Unfortunately I struggled to find a photo to share because they look as scary as they sound!

    • CMHypno profile image


      9 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      I was lucky enough to never encounter a stone fish in the wild when I was in Australia, but thanks for all the great information Karanda

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I've always found stone fish very interesting, although I wouldn't like to accidentally encounter one! It's good to know that there shouldn't be serious effects from stone fish poisoning if medical attention is quickly obtained. Thanks for the information.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      9 years ago

      Well those Stone Fish are a Bit Scary and should be Watched Out For. Very Interesting and Informative Hub Karanda. Are they just in Australia? Of course we have our share of Sharks here in Florida as well as back home in NJ.


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