Jellyfish tracked by citizen scientists06/06/2013
Mediterranean swimmers are at risk from a surge in dangerous jellyfish.
Scientists are concerned about biodiversity and human health with a surge of poisonous jellyfish along the Mediterranean coastline.
They are being helped by ‘citizen scientists’ armed with smartphones and a special app, who are tracking the surge on their travels around the coast.
They have detected a surge in one of the most poisonous species, the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca, along the coast of Catalonia and Valencia, but the coastlines of Israel, Lebanon, Sardinia, and Malta are also affected.
Italian scientists say at least 150,000 people are treated for jellyfish stings around the Mediterranean each summer.
The best protection against stings is thought to be sunblock, which protects skin from the venom. Some tourist operators are also considering using nets to create safe-zone areas for swimmers.
In May 2013, the UN published a report highlighting overfishing as a root cause for the surge in jellyfish.
The fishing had eliminated their main predators from the food chain, which in turn had the jellyfish feeding on fish larvae, further depleting ocean diversity.
The UN report also pointed to climate change and heightened levels of fertilisers and sewage in the water, which increased the nutrients for jellyfish.
It also made mention of a new find: an ‘immortal jellyfish’ which is capable of reversing its ageing process and holds fascinating possibilities for human health research.