Easter jellies fill the water

Venomous Portuguese Man of War spotted in local waters

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Vinegar was in high demand over the
Easter weekend as beach campers, snorkellers, divers and surfers reported being
stung by jellyfish that swarmed coastal waters throughout Cayman.

Reports of jellyfish were received
from West Bay to East End.

According to the Department of
Environment, there were reports of several kinds of jellyfish and of the highly
venomous Portuguese Man-of-War. There were also many sightings of Warty
Jellyfish, also known as Pink Jellyfish.

“Both are purple or pink in colour,
but Portuguese Man of War has a translucent gas-filled float, which is blown
across the surface of the water by the wind. They are also more toxic than the
Warty Jellyfish,” said Janice Blumenthal of the Department of Environment.

While there were no reports of
stings by Portuguese Man of War, Ms Blumenthal warned that, unlike with other
jellyfish stings, vinegar is not recommended for treatment of Portuguese Man of
War stings.

“Jellyfish seen this weekend are
just passing through our waters, but there are concerns that we may see global
jellyfish populations increase as oceans become warmer and more polluted and as
jellyfish predators (turtles and many pelagic fish) and competitors have their
numbers reduced through overfishing,” Ms Blumenthal said.

Over the long weekend, DoE
enforcement officers found two Portuguese Man of War in Frank Sound and another
one in North Side, and also responded to a number of reports last week.

Despite its appearance, Portuguese
Man of War is not technically jellyfish. It is a class of marine invertebrates
called a siphonophore.

Island-wide reports

Surfer Amber Unick was stung while
surfing in East End on Saturday morning.

“The whole top of the ocean was
covered with them,” she said. “The further out we went, the larger they got. We
were surfing off the anchor in East End, it was really bad there.”

She added: “The top of my hand was severely
stung. It looks like it has a third degree burn or a boiling water scald. Now
I’ve got blister bumps… The worst part is the itch.”

She received minor stings on her
legs and arms also.

Mariappan Elumalai, the water
sports concierge at the Ritz Carlton on Seven Mile Beach, said some swimmers
came looking for vinegar to put on stings and reported seeing jellyfish.

At Sunset Divers on South Sound
Road, it was mostly Warty Jellyfish that were seen.

Jaxx Kienas of Sunset Divers said
she and colleagues advised divers and swimmers to don wetsuits before going in
the water.

“They either put on wetsuits or
didn’t go in,” she said.

In West Bay, a lot of Thimble
Jellyfish were spotted in the water, said Susan Dasher of DiveTech.

“It’s that time of year. You get a
lot of sea rash and jellyfish. It’s their mating season, it happens every spring.
It’s a one-month phenomenon,” she said.

She said divers had been stung, but
an application of vinegar, followed by fresh water, usually took care of the
problem.

“The one thing you shouldn’t do is
put fresh water on before the vinegar. Fresh water activates the nematocysts
even more. Vinegar deactivates it,” she said.

Jellyfish tentacles sting prey with
nematocysts, venomous cells that can cause severe pain and welts on exposed
skin.

Rod McDowall, operations manager of
Red Sail Sports said the biggest concentration of the jellyfish appeared to be
in the East End area, adding that this may have been due to the easterly winds
over the weekend.

“Hopefully, as the wind dies down,
they’ll go away,” he said.

The Health Services Authority
reported no hospitalisations or Accident and Emergency admissions as a result
of jellyfish stings over the weekend.

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Photo: Warty Jellyfish are just a few of the different types of jellyfish spotted in Cayman waters recently.
Photo: File
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