The UAE authorities have warned the residents to be vigilant against sea snakes on beaches. The warning comes with the onset of winter when sea snakes come out to the land. The Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency (EAD) has issued the warning through its social media profile and advises the residents to be careful while visiting beaches in Abu Dhabi.
The sea snakes are known locally as “Bogni” are mainly found in shallow seawaters, among corals and reefs. There are different varieties of sea snakes and most of them are highly venomous. Normally, sea snake sightings are reported in the UAE annually around this time and they are usually known to be non-threatening. They usually swim away rather than attack and there has rarely been any incident of sea snake bite in the UAE.
According to EAD, sea snakes are poisonous, but they only bite when provoked or scared
With the arrival of the winter season and when temperatures reach around twenty-two-degree celsius, sea snakes often come out to the coastal waters around different places in Abu Dhabi for feeding and breeding.
They withdraw back to deep sea waters when the season changes to summer and temperatures rise. According to estimates, there are around seventy different sea snake species in the UAE and they can grow up to two meters long.
In case of spotting a sea snake on a beach, the EAD has requested the people to not try to interact with the snake or try to irritate it by touching it. They should immediately try to inform the lifeguard or any beach management authorities or call Abu Dhabi Government helpline number 800 555.
The most commonly spotted species of sea snakes in the UAE are reef snakes, yellow-bellied sea snakes, Gulf sea snakes, and spine-bellied sea snakes. In the event of a snake bite, please go directly to a nearby hospital for anti-venom treatment.
The venom from a sea snake can cause blood clots and damage the nervous system. It may also cause nausea and vomiting and if left untreated, can lead to fatal complications. As a defense mechanism, some sea snakes can look sluggish or dead.
Don’t take this as a cue to go near them and touch them or remove them from the place. It is always advisable to leave them alone and inform the concerned authorities about the sighting.
Rather than seeing these creatures as a threat, we should try to understand how these are also part of our environment. Last year, a horrendous incident took place where more than a dozen of sea snakes were killed because of an oil spill. It was found that these creatures are very sensitive to marine pollution as oil slicks can prevent them from swimming properly through the water.
Sea snakes are also known to take in oxygen through their skins and the thick oil can end up coating their skins blocking the entry of oxygen. Their preference for warmer waters pushes them to the coastal areas during winter and this time is also part of their breeding cycle. So it is very important that we do not disturb their environment with unnecessary interference.
Around the world, sea snakes are exploited for various reasons starting from their skins to their meat. Since 1934, the Philippines has been commercially using the meat and skin of sea snakes and a local protection program became necessary for preventing over-exploitation.
Other countries like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan province of China, and Australia also use sea snakes for their own purposes. In Australia, the local state of Queensland has even introduced a special license to capture sea snakes.
Because of these exploitations whose impact is still unknown to a great extent, some of the sea snake species might already be on the verge of extinction. Surveilling and restricting the commercialization of these sea creatures is one of the most effective ways to make sure that they survive and thrive in our oceans.
Apart from sea snakes, the EAD had also asked residents of the UAE to look out for sea turtles that may end up on beaches as they retreat to land because of low sea temperatures. The residents are asked to report any stranded turtles so that the marine experts can relocate the creature to a safe place.
The National Aquarium in UAE has initiated a turtle rehabilitation program together with the EAD and has rescued over two hundred stranded turtles on the UAE beaches. In other news, a dead Bryde’s whale was found on Abu Dhabi beach recently.
The marine experts had towed the body, analyzed and later disposed of it to understand more about these majestic sea creatures. The EAD also stressed the importance of these fishes in maintaining a proper balance of the marine ecosystem which is very sensitive to human exploitation. In order to assist in the rescue efforts of the EAD, residents can use the EAD’s Citizen Science app to report animal sightings in the UAE.