Dr Jaz Lawes1
1Surf Life Saving Australia, Sydney, New South Wales
The presence of marine stingers and their movements can be driven by environmental variables (e.g. currents, wind and wave action) and behaviour (e.g. migration), and anecdotally their prevalence on the coast is increasing. Marine stings are painful and can influence the enjoyment and perceptions around beach recreation, particularly if those stung are tourists or infrequent beachgoers. Currently our understanding of true impacts or marine stingers on coastal participation is limited. Using surf lifesaving reporting tools and a nationally representative survey, we begin to address this knowledge gap. SLSA’s National Coastal Safety Survey reports one in six Australians have been stung by a marine stinger (17%), mostly by bluebottles. Three out of four stings (77%) occurred along the eastern coast of Australia and most occurred while swimming (74%). Thirty per cent of survey respondents received treatment for their stings, of which forty-four per cent were treated by lifesaving services. Surf lifesaving statistics (2009/10-2019/20) report an average of 40,128 stings treated each year by surf lifesavers and lifeguards, with the number of treatments tending to increase each year, which has correlated with increases in perceptions of marine stinger hazards in the community since 2015. Given that many stings are not treated by surf life saving services, these results indicate that true marine sting numbers are much higher than reported here. By better understanding impacts of marine stingers on beachgoers using research and innovation, we hope to reduce risk perception and enhance the coastal experience for coastal visitors.
Jaz and is an impact ecologist and committed science communicator, passionate about science and education programs that investigate interactions between humans and the environment. Her role as national researcher at Surf Life Saving Australia, includes a diverse portfolio of coastal safety research projects. Jaz believes education and awareness strategies driven by evidence-based research are the most effective tool to transform attitudes and change behaviours to enhance public safety within our incredible coast.