Are jellyfish on the rise?

Big jellyfish on a beach in Almeria restricts bathing

Big jellyfish on a beach in Almeria restricts bathing Credit: Pixabay

Year on year more banks of jellyfish are reported around the coast of Spain, by why?
Summer is already in full swing and many of us just want to cool down and relax by taking a plunge into the Mediterranean. But, with the hot weather and warming sea comes an increase in one of nature’s little curses, the jellyfish.

Toxic tentacles

Due to toxins transmitted by their tentacles, they are just bothersome to some of us, but in some cases they can cause ‘cnidophobia’, an extreme terror of being stung by one. But, why do they appear to be on the increase around our shores? Scientists have pointed to human activity as being one of the main causes.

Overfishing leading to less predators, organic pollution, warmer seas from climate change, all these could be possible explanations to why jellyfish approach our beaches. They are cnidarians, belonging to the same family as corals and anemones, and warm water tends to lead to their numbers increasing.

Sea warmed by  1.4º over the last 40 years

Jellyfish are especially prevalent in the Mediterranean sea which has warmed by an average temperature of 1.4º over the last 40 years, according to Greenpeace. Compounding the issue, some of the jellyfish’s natural predators, such as sea turtles and tuna, are on the decline. While as well, organic matter washed into the sea acts as a food source for the jellyfish.

Some beaches use nets to create jellyfish-free waters around their beaches, such as in the Mar Menor, Murcia, but this does little to address the broader problem. Human activity and the imbalance marine ecosystems appears to be favouring more and more jellyfish colonies.

What to do if stung

If you do feel a jellyfish sting you, don’t scratch your skin, it will spread the jellyfish toxin. It is advised to remove any scraps of the jellyfish with a piece of plastic such as a credit card. Wash the infected area with sea water, never fresh water from a tap or bottle. Apply something cold, such as a bag of ice, for about 15 minutes, without rubbing the skin. Do not apply ammonia or vinegar to the sore, and consult a pharmacist. When in doubt and if the sting is bad, many beaches have a Red Cross post or lifeguard station.

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Written by

Adam Woodward

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