August 14, 2008

Beach Alert As Jellyfish With Deadly Sting Found Off Coast

Beachgoers are being put on alert after a swarm of a huge, deadly species of tropical jellyfish arrived in British waters.

Some 18 Portuguese Man o' War have been found off South West beaches in the past seven days. This compares to just six recorded here since 2003.

One seven-year-old boy needed hospital treatment after he was badly stung on the leg by a baby fish.

The creatures have one metre long tentacles that carry a poisonous sting which causes excruciating pain and can even trigger fatal anaphylactic shocks.

The fish are normally found in the Caribbean but have been swept thousands of miles towards Britain by recent strong south westerly winds.

In Devon, four dead creatures have been found washed up on beaches at Bigbury and Wenbury near Plymouth, Salcombe Regis, near Sidmouth, and Smuggler's Cove at Dawlish while one has been found near Lands' End, Cornwall, and another off the Isle of Wight.

In Dorset, 12 have been found in the sea since last Thursday, including the one that stung the young boy at Charmouth.

Julie Hatcher, of the Dorset Wildlife Trust said: "It is very rare to have them here and now we have had 11 within a week. Anybody who finds them should stay clear and report them to us. It is best not to touch them."

The Portuguese Man o' War fish have a sausage-shaped transparent body that floats on the water while underneath they have long, blue tentacles that carry a very potent poison.

Peter Richardson, of the Marine Conservation Society, warned people to stay clear .

He said: "There have been some fatalities in the past but none in the UK.

"They are very attractive creatures. They have bright purple or blue bodies that look like a balloon and hanging from them are what look like streamers. But those streamers are tentacles that carry a cocktail of toxins.

"Children in particular are at risk. Beach users should be aware that these animals can present a serious threat," he said.

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.