By Humphrey Carter
THIS summer's higher than usual temperatures may well be great for tourism, but they have also created the perfect conditions for jellyfish to reproduce and yesterday the Civil Protection department and the Guardia Civil issued an alert to all swimmers in the Balearics and up and down Spain's Mediterranean coast to beware of the imminent arrival of “a plague” of jellyfish. Bathers are warned to avoid areas colonised by jellyfish attracted by water temperatures up to eight degrees celsius higher than normal.
While some beaches on the mainland have already been closed off beacuse of the plague, bathers here in the Balearics are urged to avoid coming into contact with jellyfish and should anyone suffer a sting, seek immediate assistance from the Red Cross posts on the beaches or the local emergency or health authority. According to the experts, in extreme cases, a sting can cause heart failure.
The Red Cross in Cataluña has treated 10'000 stings alone so far this summer and now the plague is apparently coming to the Balearics, as the Bulletin reported yesterday. The plague of jellyfish along the Western Mediterranean's beaches has become the latest environmental hazard to be blamed on global warming.
Oceana, a group which campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans, attributes the increase in the number of jellyfish to a rise in water temperature because of climate change. It also highlights over-fishing of natural predators that feed on jellyfish, and pollution along the continent's coasts. The group sent a research boat around Spain's coastal waters last month and concluded that many beaches are suffering an “invasion by this species”.
Jellyfish spend most of their lives in the open seas, because that is where the water tends to be more saline and warmer.
However, researchers believe they approach beaches when water near the coast, which is usually colder and less saline, stops acting as a barrier.
That has happened in many places as less freshwater is entering the sea from rivers because of the drought.
Oceana also blames the industrialised nature of modern fishing for reducing the number of predators that normally feed on jellyfish and keep their population under control. In the meantime, bathers are advised to keep their eyes open and to monitor the local media reports and warnings issued by the local emergency services.


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