Beach-goers urged to look out for jellyfish

Author: By Emma Foster

As the school holidays begin, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is again
urging people to take part in its annual jellyfish survey.

Large jellyfish blooms have already been reported washing up on beaches in
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, and as the
UK’s seas warm up during the summer, more jellyfish blooms are expected, the
MCS said.

Peter Richardson, MCS biodiversity programme manager, said: “This year’s
jellyfish season started in earnest in April in the Irish Sea, when barrel
and moon jellyfish were reported off the Welsh coast.

“Through May and June, barrel and moon jellyfish reports increased, with moon
jellyfish reports coming from elsewhere, along with reports of other species
such as the beautiful blue and compass jellyfishes.

“We started receiving reports of stranded lion’s mane jellyfish off Wales and
Northern Ireland in June. Lion’s mane jellyfish and some other species can
sting, so as ever, we are encouraging holidaymakers to take part in our
national jellyfish survey, but the key message is look, don’t touch!”

The survey aims to uncover the little-known habits of British jellyfish, as
part of a wider programme to find out more about leatherback turtles that
migrate thousands of miles to UK waters to feed on jellyfish each summer. By
mapping where and when the jellyfish are seen, MCS hopes to understand more
about leatherback turtles while they visit in UK seas.

Mr Richardson added: “The jellyfish survey is an excellent way for people to
get involved in finding out more about our threatened seas.

“It appears that around the world jellyfish numbers are increasing, especially
in our temperate seas, and scientists have linked these increases to factors
such as pollution, over-fishing and possibly climate change.

“We should consider jellyfish populations as important indicators that show us
what happens when we treat our seas badly, telling us that our marine
resources are in desperate need of proper management.”

MCS is interested in sightings of the six larger jellyfish and two
jellyfish-like species likely to be encountered around the UK coast, which
are known to be leatherback prey. More than 6,000 jellyfish encounters have
been reported since the MCS Survey was launched in 2003.

The survey data will be fully analysed in collaboration with the University of
Exeter.

To take part in the survey, download the MCS full-colour jellyfish photo-ID
guide and recording form from www.mcsuk.org
. Jellyfish encounters can also be reported in detail online.

The MCS is a charity dedicated to the protection of seas, shores and wildlife.
It campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, protection
of marine life and their habitats, and the sensitive use of marine resources
for future generations

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