DoE: More than 24 stung by jellyfish

Stingray incident also reported

The Sandbar in Grand Cayman’s North Sound was closed to all boat traffic just before noon Wednesday following an infiltration of jellyfish, according to the Department of Tourism.

Department of Environment marine officers reported that, as of 11.40am, the Sandbar was closed until further notice due to 15 people being stung by the jellyfish. Officers said eight people were taken to the Cayman Islands hospital and the rest were treated in the North Sound.

DoE Chief Enforcement Officer Mark Orr said he had reports of about 26 people in the North Sound being stung by the jellies Wednesday. Most were in the area of the Sandbar, either passengers or crew members aboard local tour boats that travel daily to the sound and Cayman’s world-famous Stingray City.

“There were several different boats there at the time, one boat had about six people on there that got stung,” Mr. Orr said. “Another boat had about four people stung.”

None of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening. Mr. Orr said people react differently to jelly stings and some of those injured Wednesday appeared to be having an allergic reaction. The less-severe sting cases were treated with vinegar.

The type of jellyfish involved was identified as a ‘box jellyfish’ known as the Sea Wasp, and it is believed to have washed in to the Sandbar area as a result of deep sea currents.

Mr. Orr said box jellyfish stings are more painful than ones commonly experienced in Cayman waters from ‘sea-thimbles’ – strands of jellyfish eggs. The type of jellyfish known as the Sea Wasp is about two to three inches long with tentacles of six to eight inches. It is fairly typical for these types of jellies to be in Cayman waters in the late spring or early summer, Mr. Orr said.

“The winds blowing from the southeast [Tuesday] pushed these things around the eastern end of the Island,” he said. Prevailing winds Wednesday sent them into the North Sound and closer to the coasts. Mr. Orr said he expected the jellies to remain in the sound for at least the next couple of days. Marine officials said the Sandbar was re-opened early Thursday.

In the midst of all the uproar over the jellyfish, DoE officials also confirmed that a male crew member aboard one of the local tour vessels was stung by a Stingray barb.

The man was a crew member aboard a Kelly’s Watersports vessel and was apparently handling the ray when he was stung.

Mr. Orr said he was also taken to hospital for treatment and was expected to recover. Instances of individuals being stung by Cayman’s Southern Stingray breeds are rare. The last known incident involving a stingray barbing in the North Sound occurred in April 2008 when a female cruise ship passenger was stung during choppy weather at the Sandbar.

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