Going to the beach? How to protect yourself and the environment

Looking after yourself
Learn to recognise creatures which sting. Warn children to take care exploring rockpools and to never touch a blue-ringed octopus. Although you can't feel the bite, it can be fatal. The octopus is very small and brownish in colour and, when disturbed, bright blue rings appear on its body. Tell children not to poke fingers into crevices where octopuses can hide. Touching a fireworm, a bristling, pink to orange coloured worm which lives under rocks, can cause a painful sting which may need medical treatment. Blue bottles are jellyfish with long tentacles that can sting swimmers. When stung apply ice to relieve the pain and reduce swelling.

Be wary of waves if fishing or walking on rock platforms. Waves in Australian waters can be unpredictable and a number of people drown each year when they are washed from rocks.

Keep away from the edge of sea cliffs. Sometimes rock is soft and can collapse under your feet without warning.

Protect yourself and your children from the sun with loose, long sleeved clothes, hats and 15 + sunscreen. Although 30 + sunscreen is available,its effect doesn't last a lot longer. 15 + sunscreen gives about two hours protection, while 30+ gives about two and half hours (not four, as some people believe).

Looking after the coast
If we want to continue to enjoy clear water, clean beaches and coastal wildlife, we have to protect them by never leaving rubbish on the beach - it pollutes the water and can harm marine life. Six pack rings from pulltop drink cans can trap wildlife, for instance. Plastic bags can be swallowed and block the intestines of sea birds and mammals.(Better still, remove rubbish other people leave behind.)

Teaching children to only collect empty shells. If the shell contains a live animal it will die (and the shell will smell bad). Remind them to leave some empty shells behind - other small creatures need them to hide in for protection. The same goes for rockpool animals and plants - leave them where they are, and always return any overturned rocks to their original position. Animals and plants will die if left exposed to the sun. Caring for sand dunes. Sand dunes are held together by plants - if plants are removed, the sand dunes blow away. Avoid damage to plants by walking or driving on tracks when going to or from the beach. Protecting fish. If they're undersized or unwanted, get them back into the water as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary death. Handle fish with wet hands to avoid rubbing protective slime off their scales. Caring for the water when we're back home. Most coastal pollution starts on land. Rubbish, dog faeces and oil on the road or streets are washed into drains and eventually out to sea. Fix oil leaks in the car promptly and return engine oil to a garage for recycling - don't pour oil into drains. If you need to dispose of petrol, paints, thinners, pharmaceutical drugs or garden chemicals, don't put them down the drain - ask the local council for advice.