A trawler fisherman who died off the Northern Territory coast is believed to be the first person to be killed by a sea snake bite in Australia in more than 80 years.
- Harry Evans, from the UK, died on a trawler after being bitten by a sea snake
- His mother told media he was “living his dream” in the NT prior to his death
- Experts said sea snake bites more common in developing countries than in Australia
Last Thursday, Harry Evans was bitten and killed by a sea snake at about 12:00pm, as he pulled a net onto a trawler, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The 23-year-old from Poole, Dorset, in the United Kingdom, had been working for Darwin-based prawn trawler Ocean Exporter, owned by WA Seafood Exporters.
The trawler was about 75 kilometres north-east of Bing Bong in the Gulf when calls for assistance were made.
An Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesperson said crew from its rescue catamaran reached the vessel and declared the man dead shortly after 2:00pm AEST.
While honorary fellow at Charles Darwin University, Dr Michael Guinea, said he believed Mr Evans was the first trawler fisherman to ever be killed by a sea snake in Australia, he was not the first person.
On October 24, 1935, the West Australian reported that a 23-year-old Japanese pearl diver named Maso Fukami died after he was bitten near Bathurst Island, off Darwin.
According to Blanche D’Anastasi, a Phd researcher at James Cook University in Townsville, sea snake bites are much more common overseas, particularly in developing countries in Asia where workers often failed to wear protective equipment and had poor access to medical treatment.
In Australia, where sea snakes are protected, Ms D’Anastasi said trawl fishing companies educated workers about how to handle sea snakes and protect themselves.
“Trawl fishers handle hundreds and hundreds of sea snakes every year in the course of their every day job,” she said.
“And they’re all acutely aware that they’re really venomous but if they handle them in a certain way and stay away from the face, they can handle them relatively safety.
“It doesn’t surprise me it hasn’t happened before because they don’t always bite and they don’t always envenomate.”
She said if an angler caught a sea snake they should cut their line, pointing out sea snakes are highly venomous and are cousins of taipans and tiger snakes.
She said Mr Evans’ death was a “horrific tragedy”, adding that he was very unlucky.
‘He was living his dream’
The victim’s mother, Sharon Evans, said her son had been “working in a job he loved” and she “couldn’t have been prouder of him”.
“Harry was not a backpacker, he was working in a job he loved and was living his dream,” she told the Press Association.
“He had contact with his family and friends at home regularly and couldn’t have been any more loved. We couldn’t have been prouder of him.”
On Facebook, George Jackson-Carter posted: “RIP Harry Evans, you were one of the most kind-hearted and funniest people I’ve ever met. Always made everyone laugh and smile, my thoughts go out to George and their family for this tragic loss to them and everyone that knew him”.
WA Seafood Exporters and Ocean Exporter did not provide comment.
NT WorkSafe is investigating the incident.