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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > Oct/Nov 2016 > DON’T GET STUNG UP ON JELLIES


The definitive guide to jellyfish for open water swimmers

Few things in the world of open water swimming generate the same level of confusion, contradictory information and fear as jellyfish do.

Despite their ability to mesmerise with their striking colours, graceful pulsating movements and other-worldliness, their presence can reduce even the toughest of swimmers into a wobbly jelly and make a chlorinated pool swim feel like an enticing alternative.

The sea creatures we commonly refer to as ‘jellies’ can instil fear in both novice and experienced swimmers alike so this month we’re giving you all the information you need to develop a jellyfish strategy to banish your fear, be prepared and stay safe in the water.

Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, jellyfish research scientist and author of Stung!, who acts an an adviser on jellyfish to Australian long-distance swimmer Chloë McCardel, says research is vital. “My advice for [open water] swimmers is to do some research and arm themselves with information so that they can make informed decisions about when and where to swim.”

“Lion’s mane, Portuguese Man of War and mauve stingers are the three species to be aware of around the UK. There are many other species present in our waters but none of them have a sting to compare to those three,” says Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Biodiversity at the Marine Conservation Society.

An average of 100 jellyfish stings per year are treated by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeguards across the total of 240 beaches they patrol around the UK and Channel Islands. “These are treated as minor first aids resulting in a minor rash, which require no further medical intervention,” says Bre¤ Shepherd, RNLI Operations Manager (Lifeguards).

“The good news for swimmers in the UK is that the jellyfish here are low risk compared to other parts of the world,” he adds, noting that he’d worked in Australia where box and Irukandji jellyfish pose serious risks to swimmers.

Dr Angel A Yanagihara

Salud Deudero PhD of the Spanish

Oceanographic Institute is based in Palma, Mallorca, and coordinates the collection of data on the presence of jellyfish around the Balearic Islands. This information is fed into the CIESM JellyWatch Program, which records the frequency and extent of jellyfish outbreaks across the Mediterranean Sea.

Maxine Round Smith

“Jellyfish are present the whole year round, but in summer most individuals can be found near shore and in coastal waters,” says Deudero, explaining that various factors influence the prevalence and movement of jellyfish including sea currents, weather conditions, predators, nutrient levels in the water and the presence of jellyfish foodstuffs including algae and zooplankton.

Anna Wardley
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About Outdoor Swimmer

In this issue we explore wild swimming in Scandinavia, where the right to roam extends to swimming outdoors – in some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. We also bring you reports from some our favourite events of the summer – more swims for you to add to your bucket list! We hear from Howard James and Sabrina Wiedmer about their record breaking swims – the earliest (and coldest) English Channel crossing and the first woman to cross the Dál Raita Channel, respectively. And if that all sounds a bit too hardcore and serious, Dan Abel shows us how to keep our swimming fun. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.