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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 Brett 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.

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.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Don't get stung up on jellies with our definitive guide to jellyfish by endurance swimmer Anna Wardley – including a guide to species, where you will find them, how to identify them, and what to do if you get stung.

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