Local weather conditions bringing itchy creatures

 

Southerly winds may have brought some stinging creatures closer to Cayman’s shores this week, 

Boaters reported seeing a Portuguese Man O’War, a jellyfish-like creature that delivers a hefty sting with its tentacles, in the sea near the Royal Palms mooring buoy off Seven Mile Beach on Sunday. 

Recently, divers and swimmers in local waters off Grand Cayman have also been reporting getting hit by sea itch – the larvae of thimble jellyfish. 

John Bothwell of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment said department staff had not been alerted to Portuguese Man O’War in the waters, but said the recent weather conditions were likely bringing these creatures closer to shore. 

“My guess is that the slight shift in the wind from north-east, which blows things away from our leeward beaches, and north-west, which again does a pretty good job of keeping those beaches clear, to more southerly winds the last couple of days – which blows planktonic animals like the sea itch and the Portuguese Man O’Wars in to the beaches – may be responsible. Especially when you combine these ‘onshore’ winds with otherwise good swimming weather,” Mr. Bothwell said Monday. 

He said a north-east breeze would probably have carried the Man O’War well out to sea, but added that the wind was blowing from the south the day it was spotted. 

Other factors may also be come into play in people spotting jellies or being stung by sea itch, including the fact that “it’s now spring and so the jellyfish are (probably) starting to spawn, giving us the sea itch to be blown in for the next few months,” Mr. Bothwell said. 

He said the longer, warmer days see phytoplankton blooms “so it makes sense that the things that feed on them would also begin to spawn around the same time”. 

“Of course, all of the above is based upon my grandmother’s sage advice not to go swimming in the summer in a southerly wind because you’ll probably get sea itch,” Mr. Bothwell said. 

The warmer weather also means more people are getting back in the water and Cayman’s beaches will be filled this weekend with seasonal Easter campers. 

The weather forecast over the coming days is for rough seas and north-easterly winds. 

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