Millions of 'mauve stinger' jellyfish set to hit Med beaches this summer


Last updated at 09:46 01 March 2008

It's the news that holidaymakers planning their annual two weeks in the sun will be dreading.

A plague of stinging jellyfish is set to hit the tourist beaches of the Mediterranean this summer as millions of so-called 'mauve stingers' are washed ashore.

Scientists studying the phenomena at a research institute in Barcelona have discovered massive numbers of the jellyfish with a nasty sting massing in deeper waters off the Costa Brava.

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Swarms of jellyfish

Swarms of these frightening-looking jellyfish, which pack a hefty sting, will soon be covering beaches across the Mediterranean

Researchers have discovered huge colonies of the Pelagia noctiluca species of the animal growing over the winter months in deeper waters, waiting to be washed ashore with the summer tides.

In some cases they discovered colonies with up to ten jellyfish per cubic metre of water, according to the Guardian.

According to Josep-María Gili, a professor at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM)the recent growth in jellyfish numbers "is a message from the sea that something is wrong.”

Overfishing of the seas means that many of the natural predators of jellyfish, such as larger fish like tuna, are simply no longer around to regulate population growth while the numbers of smaller fish that compete with food with jellyfish are also dwindling.

Climate change is also being blamed for the sudden population explosion as warmer seas make ideal breeding grounds for jellyfish.

"People need to realise that fish, especially adult fish, play an important role in the sea - they are the principal carnivores. We must change the laws about over-fishing and the type of fishing," said Gili.

"Spectacular growth has been found in jellyfish populations in Japan, Namibia, Alaska, Venezuela, Peru, Australia ... this is an international ecological problem."

In 2006, the Red Cross treated 21,000 people who had been stung on the beaches of Catalonia, while on a single day in August, 400 bathers were treated at a beach in Málaga.

All jellfish sting, but not all have poison that hurts humans. Of the 2,000 species of jellyfish, only about 70 seriously harm or kill people.

Luckily for holidaymakers the 'mauve stinger' is not one of them.

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