by Staff Reporter

THE central environment ministry denied yesterday that there was a plague of jellyfish off the Balearic coasts, or off the Spanish coast in general, as there is no scientific evidence to determine or confirm such a plague.

The denial came yesterday from Javier Cachón, head of the ministry's marine ecosystem protection department.
He said that there were indications that there had been a plague of jellyfish at one point last year, but, he was quick to add, “we cannot say the same this year, as the known cases of proliferation have been very few due to the fact that summer kicked in later.” Cachón went on to say that the campaign which the ministry set in motion on June 8, to combat the presence of jellyfish in the islands was in response to the social alarm created last year, and because there was concern over the problems that they could cause.

Last year, the Balearic government reported 3'000 cases of people stung by jellyfish. But Cachón said, the islands welcomed around 12 million tourists, so the number of incidents was not enough to talk about a plague. As to steps to be taken to combat the plague, Cachón said that the ministry “advises against the use of container nets at sea, as the jellyfish are trapped in them but their tentacles break and continue to be active in the sea.” He went on to say “we do not advise these nets anywhere, as we do not have sufficient information to be able to advise for or against, what we do is not recommend it in the open sea and in heavy seas. It would not make much sense to put a net along the coast, as it would produce a false sensation of security among bathers.” Cachón says that the Spanish Cabinet agreed to start a Jellyfish Campaign on June 8, which will continue until the end of summer, at a cost of half a million euros. “The plan consists of developing an observation system through a network of observers,” he explained, adding that “these observers will inform us by message, internet or phone of any proliferation of jellyfish in concrete zones, so that their movements can be traced and, if the system notes that they are approaching a bathing area (200 to 300 metres from the coast), we can proceed to collect them up at sea.” However, Federico Alvarez, director of the Balearic Oceanography Centre, said that “there has been a proliferation of jellyfish in recent years due to the existence of different causes, an increase in the temperature of sea water, overfishing of predators (such as red tunny and turtles) and the drought which means that less fresh water reaches the sea.”