'WEAR shoes or shuffle' – and don't let weever fish spoil your love of the seaside.

That's the message from conservationists amid warnings of the venomous fish returning to our shores this summer.

As reported, litter, crowds and a lack of social distancing is not the only thing we should be concerned about at the coast.

Weever fish, attracted by the hot weather, bury themselves in the sand and their sting can be excruciatingly painful if trodden on.

Now marine conservationist Marc Kativu-Smith, Coastal Centres Manager for Dorset Wildlife Trust, says the fish should not put people off.

He said: "It’s worth remembering that this tiny little fish is not out to harm anyone, it is only protecting itself, and people shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about them.

"It’s worth staying aware, and take precautions, but don’t stop enjoying the sea. Dorset’s marine life is rich and diverse, and as one of the very few venomous fish found in Britain, even the lesser weever fish has its part to play."

There are two types of weever fish found in the UK: the lesser weever, Echiichthys vipera and the greater weever, Trachinus draco. These are one of the very few venomous fish found in British waters. Both species have venomous spines on their backs to protect themselves from predators, but the lesser weever is found in shallow water so is the one most likely to be encountered by bathers in the summer months, while the greater weever stays offshore in deeper water.

Mr Kativu-Smith said: "Lesser weevers are a small fish, around 15cm, a yellow sandy colour, perfectly camouflaged to hide under the sand. They spend most of their time buried, with only their eyes and dorsal spine sticking out. They are ambush predators that feed on small fish and crustaceans.

"If the fish is accidentally trodden on the sting can be very painful, but this can be avoided by wearing shoes or by shuffling your feet in the sand as you move. If you do get stung the pain is comparable to a bee sting and can pass fairly quickly, but soaking in hot water is said to break down the toxin and reduce the pain, taking care not to burn or scold yourself. There can sometimes be fish spines left in the wound which will need removing. More serious symptoms are rare, but if you are unsure visit a GP or local hospital."

He added: "Just remember to wear shoes or shuffle!"

* To find out more about the diverse and exciting marine life we have in Dorset and to celebrate National Marine Weeks, (July 25 to August 9), you can follow Dorset Wildlife Trust on social media @DorsetWildlife.