A POISONOUS tropical pufferfish has been found washed up on Chesil Beach.

Richard Fabbri, who works at Weymouth Watersports, found the 12-inch oceanic pufferfish while on a daily beach-combing trip on Chesil.

He said: “I saw this weird fish and initially I thought it could be a cuttlefish because of the strange shape and size. But as I got nearer I had a rough idea that it looked more like a pufferfish, so I took a few photos and took it down to the Chesil Beach Centre to their wildlife experts there.

He added: “Anything which does wash up on the beach is usually eaten by the seagulls pretty soon after, but they hadn’t touched this. I thought that was probably not a good sign, so I didn’t touch it.”

Mr Fabbri said he was told it was very rare to see a fish of this kind washed up on a Dorset beach, and said: “The experts said they have never seen anything like it.”

The oceanic pufferfish, also known by its scientific name lagocephalus lagocephalus oceanicus, usually lives in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and can grow up to 61cm.

It has four large fused teeth arranged in a beak-like shape, and normally feeds on crustaceans and squid.

The fish can inflate its belly with water or air to deter predators, and tiny spines protrude from the belly which can lodge in other animals’ throats if they try to eat the fish.

It is suspected this kind of fish is responsible for fatal poisoning like most other pufferfish, which contain deadly tetrodotoxin.

Pufferfish are sometimes eaten as a delicacy in countries such as Japan, but usually only when prepared by experts who must carefully remove the poisonous parts of the fish to avoid contaminating the rest of the meat.

According to Dorset Wildlife Trust, the largest ever oceanic pufferfish was caught off Chesil Beach in 1985.

Marc Smith from the Dorset Wildlife Trust said: “When Richard brought the fish in it was definitely something I was completely unfamiliar with, I had to do some research. It’s hard to say why it turned up here, they see them in Cornwall every two to five years but not as often here and only a small number have been recorded in the UK. Because the South West gets bathed with the Gulf Stream there is a chance the fish could have gone off course.”

Mr Smith added the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science has now collected the fish for analysis because the particular neurotoxin it carries is very expensive and hard to get hold of.

He said: “If anyone finds more of these fish it’s probably best not to handle the fish or touch it whatsoever. We would like to hear about any further finds, and the public can get in touch with me at the Dorset Wildlife Trust by calling 01305 206191.”