July 26, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back into the Water…

If you go down to the beach this summer - you could be in for a painful surprise.

Because moon, blue, compass and lion's mane jellyfish are thought to be having their own vacation on the Lincolnshire coast.

Climate change is resulting in British waters becoming warmer, encouraging more of the creatures to visit the county's shoreline.

Some have already been spotted but the Marine Conservation Society now wants holiday-makers to record sightings of the slippery stingers.

Rachel Shaw of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust said little was known about jellyfish found along the county coast, although moon jellyfish were already common.

"We would encourage everyone who is visiting the beach this summer to look out for them and send their sightings to the Marine Conservation Society," she said.

"In that way we will learn more about these fascinating creatures."

Society biodiversity programme manager Peter Richardson said: "We have not had reports from people in Lincolnshire so it would be great if readers get in touch."

The aim is to create a 'jellyfish map'. This in turn will help to build up a picture of the habits of critically endangered leatherback turtles which feed on the migrating animals.

"Everybody knows what a jellyfish looks like but they do not often know a lot about different species and there is not a national picture of where they appear," said Mr Richardson.

"The key message is to look, don't touch because some will have a nasty sting."

Kevin Wilson, site manager at Lincolnshire wildlife reserve Gibraltar Point, said: "It's a great idea anything that gets people out and taking an interest in any form of wildlife.

"Jellyfish obviously indicate changes in the sea relative to climate change. Temperatures are warming up in the sea and it's having an effect.

"The Leatherback turtles are coming further out of range because they are following the food."

Rising sea temperatures, which are encouraging jellyfish migration, are not noticeable to humans but felt by wildlife.

And on rare occasions the creatures can appear in 'blooms' off the coast - a large group which all surface at the same time.

Most jellyfish are harmless but the lion's mane can have a nasty sting.

So before you pack your bucket and spade, download an identification guide from www.mcsuk.org to help you identify the different species. Report sheets can also be downloaded or spotters can log sightings on the website.

(c) 2008 Lincolnshire Echo. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.