Jellyfish invasion

Invasion of the jellyfish — at a Spanish beach near you soon

Experts predict more bathers will get nasty stings this year

With the start of summer just a few days away, many beach goers will find their fun in the sun is rather more precarious this year than in past seasons, as jellyfish colonies are expected to rise in numbers along the Spanish coastline. Authorities have already begun to prepare for the seasonal beach hazards.

Scientists believe that the invasion of jelly- fish — known in Spanish as medusas — will be larger than normal this year because of constant over-fishing in theMediterranean and the Atlantic. And some also believe that colonies of these floating, stinging invertebrates have begun arriving earlier than usual.

In April, observers from the Spanish Oceanography Institute spotted hundreds of Portuguese Man-of-Wars near Murcia and in Cantabria. Last year, Man-of- Wars, which float on a gas- filled, blue-to-pink, translucent body, were seen in abundant numbers in Spanish waters. Scientists say that the Physa- lia physalis makes its way from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar, pushed by western winds. Their tentacles, some extending 20 meters in length, contain a high concentration of poison. These invertebrates eat small fish and other small ocean animals by stinging them with their tentacles. The poison in the stingers paralyzes the prey, which the Man-of-War then eats. The sting can be extremely painful for humans. Painful reactions According to Ignacio Franco, a researcher atMurcia’s Oceanography Center, the Man-of-Wars that enter the Mediterranean are not as dangerous as their Australian counterparts, but their sting can cause a serious allergic reaction in cildren and people with poor immune systems.

The less poisonous Aurelia aurita is themore common jellyfish to be found near Spanish shores and the numbers of them vary a great deal each year. “There could be large colonies of jellyfish in the high seas but few reach the shore,” says Verónica Fuentes, a researcher at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Barcelona. The severity of the sting depends on the type of jellyfish.

If you are stung, experts advise that you get out of the wa- ter immediately and avoid scratching the affected area. Contrary to popular belief, do not put ammonia on the sting. If the stingers are still in the skin, remove them with gloves or tweezers. Apply an ice pack to the wound for 15 minutes, and to avoid infection, cover the area with Mercurochrome or any other iodine-based remedy.

JOAN CARLES AMBROJO Madrid El Pais International Edition June 14th 2009

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License