According to experts, the abnormally high sea temperatures may be prompting fish to seek alternative food sources.
Warnings have been issued to tourists in Benidorm regarding the presence of fish resembling piranhas, following a series of incidents in Alicante.
Westeros, one of Benidorm’s most renowned beaches, has witnessed a surge in reported bites. Reportedly, lifeguards have had to attend to over 15 individuals on some days, as reported by the Spanish newspaper Información.
Oblada fish seem to be attracted to skin imperfections like warts, moles, or minor wounds, particularly in older individuals. Their bites can result in bleeding and leave distinct tooth marks on the limbs and back.
Those who have encountered these fish describe them as approximately 30 cm in size, with a distinguishing black mark on their tails.
Swimmers are also cautioned against wearing shiny jewelry when entering the sea, as it can potentially provoke attacks from other species, including puffer fish, golfer fish, or bluefish.
Why do fish attack people on the beaches of Benidorm?
Experts caution that the surge in attacks may be attributed to elevated water temperatures.
The warm waters have hastened the fish’s metabolic rates, intensifying their hunger and prompting them to forage more aggressively. According to the Climatology Laboratory at the University of Alicante, the current sea temperature off the Benidorm coast hovers around 29-30°C.
The Institute of Coastal Ecology has been monitoring this issue since the summer of 2017 when the Alicante rescue and first aid service began documenting these incidents. Similar fish-related problems have also arisen in other Spanish resorts, including some in the Costa Brava and Catalonia, in previous years.
The fish in question, scientifically known as Oblada melanura, are typically found around Tabarca Island, located 8 kilometers from the mainland, where tourists often feed them at the harbor.
These fish are omnivorous, primarily consuming small invertebrates like shrimp. However, this year, they have ventured much closer to the coastline and appear to have developed a preference for tourists.
A spokesperson from Spain’s Department of Marine Species has commented on the situation, stating that the fish “are used to being fed.”
“There can be a high population density and they don’t run away from people.”