January 19, 2019

"Never seen anything like this" Thousands stung by bluebottles in Queensland

08 January 2019, 10:27 | Ross Houston

Image Bluebottle jellyfish are a regular visitor in Australia but the weekend's numbers were unusually high. File pic

Bluebottle jellyfish

More than 3,500 people have been stung by jellyfish in Queensland over the weekend, Australian lifeguards have said.

Since the start of December, there have been more than 18,000 stings recorded in Queensland, compared with 6,000 for the same time previous year.

Lisa Gershwin, who works with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia's national science agency, said that the surge in stings is unlikely to be coincidental.

The latest figure for the weekend is nearly double initial estimates released by Surf Life Saving Queensland and includes people treated by council lifeguards.

Several swimmers suffered anaphylactic shock and were attended to by paramedics.

Most of those stung were on the famed Gold Coast, while other people were stung on the Sunshine Coast, located north of Brisbane.

Jellyfish closed some Queensland beaches
Image Thousands of people were stung by the bluebottles

According to the association, 22,282 people were treated for bluebottle stings between December 1 and January 7 compared to 6,381 in the same period a year ago. The beaches were forced to be shut down over the weekend to tackle the situation.

"The numbers I have seen published are 25,000 to 45,000 per year for the whole of Australia", Dr Gershwin said.

Most of the encounters happened in the popular Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast regions.

The blue fringes and the long blue tentacles of the bluebottle is a colony, not an individual which lives in armadas in the ocean and had trailing tentacles and a keel-like crest that acts like a sail, Australian Associated Press reported.

While researchers are still examining how much recent heat waves may have contributed to the current jellyfish bloom off Australia's coasts, they can already say with certainty how they got to the beaches: Unusually strong north-easterly winds pushed the bluebottles onshore and they are clumped in their thousands along the shoreline.

Sometimes confused with larger, more venomous Atlantic cousin, Physalia physalis (or Portuguese Man o' War), the common bluebottle is known as Physalia utriculus.

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