The Portuguese man o' war. With any luck, none will have ventured as far as Majorca. | Archive

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Ignacio Franco, a researcher at the Spanish Institute of Oceanograhy, says that the number of jellyfish off Spanish coasts this summer is normal. It is in fact lower than had been expected in the spring, when there were warnings of greater numbers than usual. "At the start of the summer, everything seemed to indicate that it was going to be quite bad."

Franco adds that the most dangerous jellyfish species, the Portuguese man o' war, is not expected, although he accepts that some might have slipped in from the Atlantic. The jellyfish that is most characteristic of the Mediterranean, the luminescent Pelagia noctiluca, is at levels that are usual in recent years. It is, however, more abundant than was the case ten to fifteen years ago. This is partly attributed to overfishing, especially of sardines and anchovies, which leaves less competition for plankton. Other reasons are increased nutrients in the sea that come from discharges and agricultural fertilisers; the jellyfish's high reproductive capacity and its ability to adapt to global change.

The areas that are typically worst affected are the sea off the south coast of Spain around Malaga, the stretch on the coast in the Denia region, and also the Balearics.

As for treating jellyfish stings, Franco says that one of the most effective remedies is to apply ice. This reduces the pain and the poison. Vinegar and ammonia are also effective, though in the case of ammonia, this can burn the skin.