In Depth

British man dies from sea snake bite in Australia

The 23-year-old backpacker was reportedly bitten when pulling up net on fishing boat

A British man has died after being bitten by a sea snake on a fishing trawler in Australia.

Australian police said the 23-year-old, thought to be a backpacker, had just pulled up a net off the coast of the Northern Territory when he was bitten.

Emergency crews were called to the boat, near the island of Groote Eylandt, but were unable to save the man.

At least 32 species of sea snakes have been found in warmer waters off the Northern Territory and Queensland, according to the Marine Education Society of Australasia (MESA).

They “are venomous but considered to be non-aggressive and rarely attack unless provoked”, says The Guardian.

MESA said most sea snake bites occur on trawlers, although only a small proportion are fatal to humans as it is rare for much venom to be injected.

The society added that most bites reportedly occur on fishing trawlers, as workers pull in nets, as was the case in this case.

It is thought the case may be the first recorded death from a sea snake in Australia.

Professor Bryan Fry, from University of Queensland, described it as a “tragically unlucky accident”.

“By and large they are very gentle animals, and people do go scuba diving with them all the time,” he told the BBC.

“But in a fishing trawler situation, where they've been potentially dragged through the water in a net, they will come up injured and perhaps looking to lash out.”

A British High Commission spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in the Northern Territory and are in contact with the Australian authorities.”

According to research published last year, snakes were responsible for 27 deaths in Australia between 2000 and 2013.

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