Some of the dangerous sea creatures in Hawaii are the anemones. The anemone's common habitats are in tidepools and as far away as the deep offshore waters. The anemone family is full of different sizes (tall, short, clumpy, bumpy) and brilliant colors (some are quite attractive). If you should ever come across a sea anemone be careful, as beautiful as most of them are, they are very dangerous. You should avoid direct contact with your skin. If you are tidepooling, you should always use footwear and be very leery of sticking your hands down any holes or in cracks and crevices. Anemones attach themselves to the reefs and reach their tentacles up and outwards to receive food and they may think your hand is dinner. If you have any burning, itching or swelling around the area of contact, you should seek help right away. In severe cases, you can end up with shortness of breath and loss of consciousness.
Another dangerous creature is the barracuda. The barracuda lives in open waters as well as bay areas in the shadows and under floating objects. Some can even be spotted in the harbors under the boats and kayaks. They are attracted to shiny objects, so anything reflective can be thought of as its next meal. The barracuda is a very handsome creature. It's silverish black to almost blue in color with a small head and big mouth. Be very cautious when one is nearby, they are very fast swimmers with jagged teeth and strong tearing jaws. The barracuda can leave a very nasty gash in your skin. If ever attacked by a barracuda, administer pressure to the wound and seek medical help promptly.
Along with the anemone, you may also come across the cone snail if you're tidepooling. This creature prefers the sandy areas though and like the anemone is found in tide pools and as far as the deep offshore waters. There really is no protective clothing to wear around a cone snail. It should never be handled, especially near its tip. The tip is where the cone snail's venomous mechanism comes darting out at its prey. This poison is used for stunning and killing fish and invertebrates. However, we being larger creatures suffer a milder but in some cases, deadly version. The poison brings on a stinging, burning pain with numbness and can be as severe as putting you into a coma or cardiac arrest! If ever in contact, scrub the wound and seek medical help for the more severe reactions.
A creature that is common to all water bodies is the box jellyfish. Its scientific name is Scyphozoa charybdea and S. charybdea rastoni. These jellyfish swarm regularly to Hawaii's leeward shores 10 days after a full moon. The waters look sparkly and the ones that wash up on shore look like crystals lying in the sand. Stay away from areas where jellyfish have been sighted or if you ever come across the dead ones washed up on the beach. Their tentacles pack a pretty mean sting. Most people feel the stinging at first then a burning sensation along with redness and swelling of the lymph nodes. In severe cases, the victim can have difficulty in breathing with even cardiac arrest. There will also be long welt lines left behind as a remembrance. If you have vinegar, douse the area and for the pain ice may offer some relief until you can get medical attention.
Another reason not to stick your hands into holes are moray eels. The moray eel lives along rocky areas, in holes, and under rocks. A very private creature, they are not known to attack unless threatened. Their home is their castle and they will defend it at any means. They usually come out only to eat. The scent of dead fish, blood, or bait will get them curiously out of their holes. Moray eels have razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws, so powerful that they can render severe muscle damage if one ever gets its jaws locked onto you. More commonly, they can cause severe tendon and nerve damage. Promptly administer pressure to the wound, clean thoroughly and get medical help to guard against any infection.
The yellow bellied sea snake is seldom found in Hawaiian waters but they have been known to make their way here. Like any snake, their venom is in their fangs. This poison can cause severe pain, paralysis and cardiac arrest. The yellow bellied sea snake is so dangerous that if found, you must report the sighting to the authorities right away. If bitten, keep the victim calm and warm, then transport to a medical facility or call 911 for an ambulance.
Another creature that loves to hide among the rocks is the scorpion fish. This creature hangs out in rocky areas and in the shallows. Do not handle if you come in contact with one. The scorpion fish has toxic dorsal, pelvic, and anal spines. The poison from this fish will give you extreme pain that will throb for hours. Sometimes, but rarely experienced in Hawaii, victims go into convulsions and cardiac arrest. Immerse the infected area in hot water, as hot as you can stand. Get medical attention for severe reactions or if infection sets in.
The stingray is another creature that likes the shallows but, unlike the scorpion fish, will lie in and on the sandy areas and venture off to the deep. When in waters where stingrays have been known to frequent, walk in a shuffling manner in the water so as not to disturb or even step on a sleeping stingray. Stay clear of swimming rays especially ones that have been disturbed. The dangerous part of the stingray is its tail with the poisonous barb near the base of the body. This tail can leave you with severe lacerations and pain.
Similar to the jellyfish is the Portuguese man-of-war. Its damage to the body is similar to that of the jellyfish but a bit more severe. There is stinging, burning, redness and lymph node swelling. The same long welt lines and the difficulty in breathing and cardiac arrest in severe cases almost mirror that of the jellyfish. However, the Portuguese man-of-war does not swarm to Hawaiian waters. They are brought here by strong winds blown in from the ocean towards the land. Beware of those long, brilliantly blue lace-like tentacles. These tentacles, normally dangling in the water, will sting and kill their prey. Should you get stung, remove any visible tentacles, rinse with fresh or salt water and apply ice for the pain. Some people have been known to apply meat tenderizer because there's something about the enzymes in the tenderizer which breaks up the toxins in the poison. As always, seek medical attention in more severe cases.
When fishermen go out fishing at night, one of the creatures to keep an eye out for is the needle fish. Attracted by the light, this fish has been known to literally jump out of the water toward the light, sometimes injuring a startled fisherman. With its long, pointed jaw it can easily puncture and sometimes break off into the wound. Clean affected areas with antiseptic promptly. If the point breaks off, do not remove it. Stop the bleeding with pressure and seek immediate medical help.
These are just a few of Hawaii's dangerous creatures; there are more. Some don't even move and yet are dangerous to us. Some are big and scary and others seem so pretty and helpless. This does not mean that our waters are a dangerous place to swim and play in but rather, like anything, always be alert and pay attention to your surroundings.