Venomous fish hooked by angler in Tolsta

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Two poisonous ‘lesser weever’ fish, not usually seen around the islands, have been caught on a beach in Tolsta, just days apart.

At the weekend angler Gillies Mackenzie caught the second venomous fish to be hooked within a week during a shore competition on Traigh Mhor - leading to concerns the species is becoming more common.

Mr Mackenzie explained: “We’ve known there is a slight chance of them being down at Tolsta, and other beaches in Broadbay and have heard of someone getting stung collecting razor fish at low tide in Gress, but we never ever expected to catch them.

“Having fished the beaches there for years, we have never seen any caught on a hook, but that’s two in a week now.”

Lesser weever fish are found throughout the UK, but are more common in the south. Scotland is at the most northern extent of their range in the Atlantic. The species are best known for five black spines on their back, which give a painful sting, and can pierce through wetsuit boots. They come inshore to feed during the summer, laying buried in the sand.

A Scottish Natural Heritage spokesperson explained that costal water temperatures have risen in Scotland by more than 1°C since the 1970s.

He said: “In theory warmer waters would likely result in an increase in numbers of this species; if fishermen and anglers are seeing an increase this would fit with other anecdotal evidence of changes to our environment with, for example, increased recent records of other ‘southern’ species like the grey triggerfish.”