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article imageJellyfish in high numbers around the beaches of the Mediterranean

By Anne Sewell     Aug 27, 2013 in Environment
An Italian biologist reckons it could be the result of climate change or overfishing. Whatever the reason, there are many more jellyfish than normal hanging around the beaches of the Med this year.
According to marine biologist Stefano Piraino from Italy's University of Salento:
"Overfishing is one reason. If we get rid of all the fish, we reduce the jellyfish's competitors," Piraino explains.
But he also says that climate change could play a role in the problem:
"Many of the species we are observing have a faster growth rate with increased temperature," Piraino said.
"They can multiply very easily in a very short time - much faster than any vertebrae, any fish in the sea."
"There are a number of alien species coming from the Red Sea, so tropical and subtropical species, that have entered the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal," he added.
While most of the jellyfish off the coast of Spain are harmless, apparently some can give you a nasty sting.
An example is the mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca), pictured above and below. A sting from this beauty can lead to a nasty case of burning, nausea and muscle cramps.
US National Public Radio (NPR) network is saying that in total, around 150,000 people receive treatment after jellyfish stings on Mediterranean beaches each year.
But this number appears to be climbing. A recent flyover of Spain's coast by scientists revealed jellyfish blooms over a kilometer long.
On a popular beach on the island of Formentera in the Balearic Islands, tourists have been affected by jellyfish:
"My son, he was swimming in the water, playing with his brother, and then he was stung by a jellyfish," says Gabrielle Amand, a holidaymaker from France.
On hearing her son's screams, she rushed into the water, but says, "We saw nothing. It's very small, a little red thing. But it hurts a lot," she said. "He cried a lot."
Piraino advised tourists: "If you are on the beach and you see some jellyfish, you can even send us a picture. In the last three years, we received around 10,000 records from citizens."
Apparently the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been warning tourists about the jellyfish threat on Spain's beaches - they made the following statement:
"We have been alerted to large numbers of jellyfish in the Mediterranean this summer, especially in a number of key holiday destinations for UK tourists."
"We have updated our travel advice for a number of Mediterranean countries to reflect this issue."
The FCO goes on to recommend that tourists ask locals for advice before taking a dip in the waves and some beaches in Spain have also introduced jellyfish warnings.
However, Paul, a lifeguard on Formentera told the media: "It all depends on the water currents and the wind."
"When the wind comes from over there, it's not long before the jellyfish start to appear," he says, pointing toward the west.
Paul said that lifeguards are always there to manage the public's reaction to jellyfish.
"I deal with a lot of crying children who've been stung, but I don't see it affecting tourism here," Paul says. "People just need to be cautious when they swim, and they'll be fine."
The video above (Spanish language) shows jellyfish in their natural environment. While they may sting, they certainly are beautiful to watch.
Pelagia noctiluca - jellyfish
Pelagia noctiluca - jellyfish
Alberto Romeo
The UK is also seeing more jellyfish:
Interestingly enough, it is not only is the Mediterranean affected it seems. Back at the end of July it was reported that the UK's recent heatwave had brought with it a whole load of jellyfish.
Travel News reported that warm waters around parts of Devon, Cornwall and the northwest have been inundated by Medusozoa, which is a fancier name for jellyfish.
Dr Peter Richardson, biodiversity programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) told the Daily Mail, "There has also been plentiful reports of compass and blue jellyfish in the South West. Although their sting is mild, families should still be on the lookout."
For a little beach humor, see the video below, with people running and screaming as a huge pink "jellyfish" comes out of the water:
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