Purple jellyfish are back this year: why they have increased in recent years and how climate change is affecting them

By | May 6, 2023

The citizens of our country are concerned about the appearance of purple jellyfish in the Greek seas. As summer approaches and people prepare to flock to the beaches, doubts are growing as to whether the phenomenon is directly related to climate change and its effects on the environment.

What is happening? Will there be more jellyfish this year than in previous years? Is there a specific time when they appear or do we just notice them in the summer months because we go to the sea more often? What ultimately affects your appearance?

Epaminondas Christou, ocean biologist, research director at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (EL.KE.TH.E.), answers Newsbeast’s questions.

“Purple jellyfish don’t have a specific season, they appear at any time, it’s just a matter of when people notice them. Now, with the Greek Biodiversity Observatory in connection with the sites international naturalist, there is a permanent record of them. throughout the year. As of Wednesday (3/5), 16 cases of purple jellyfish had been registered throughout the first four months of 2023,” he highlights, noting that “When the temperature rises, the reproduction rate of purple jellyfish increases.”

How climate change affects your appearance

Climate change is clearly one factor contributing to the increase in purple jellyfish populations, while global overfishing is another.. However, there are also local characteristics that “alter” this profile”, explained the oceanographer biologist, Director of Research at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (EL.KE.TH.E.), Epaminondas Christou.

“In Greece it has been observed for years that the jellyfish in question make cycles that last more than ten years, that is, every ten or twelve years they appear in the same place for two or three years. We don’t know if this pattern will continue because climate change may change it. Let us remember that the jellyfish that appeared in Corinthiakos in 2017-18 had reappeared 12 years ago, but then the swarms were not so dense and this is an effect of climate change, ”he adds.

As Epaminondas Christou points out, purple jellyfish in the Aegean have been turning up since 2020.There is a population offshore, where they multiply, which with the sea currents reaches the beaches. In the Ionian there does not seem to be a population, but since it communicates with the large seas of the central Mediterranean, it is very likely that the jellyfish that appear have been dragged from other areas ”, he points out.

Jellyfish based on their diet “compete” with some types of fish. There are also fish that eat jellyfish, so if there is overfishing, they are reduced.

This particular jellyfish (the purple one) does not need a substrate to make its cycle, it is a species that lives in the ocean and prefers areas with great depths. It approaches the shores only with the help of currents.doesn’t want to get close and stays in the open,” says the Director of Research at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (EL.KE.TH.E.) speaking to Newsbeast.

Why is its bite quite painful?

A purple jellyfish sting is quite painful (due to the neurotoxin) but not dangerous. Some of the most likely symptoms are burning pain at the specific point and the intense redness of the skin.

The most serious, but rare symptoms are nausea, tachycardia, vomiting, headache, shortness of breath, drop in pressure and spasm of the bronchi.

According to the oceanographic biologist and research director of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (EL.KE.TH.E.), Epaminondas Christou “its sting is painful and its intensity depends on the number of nematocysts, that is, the amount of toxin that will be found at the point of contact”.

There is a specific protocol to follow in case of a bite that has been shown to be the best first aid“he says, explaining that we first rinsed with seawater, added ice, and then a 1:1 mixture of baking soda and seawater.” As the ocean biologist emphasizes it is forbidden to put vinegar or ammonia in the place.

What to do if you are stung by a purple jellyfish: step by step process

The Greek Biodiversity Observatory has recommended a first aid kit for the beach. As he points out, in order to deal with the sting of the purple jellyfish, it is good to have the following on the beach:

  • A plastic card (for example, an old credit card).
  • A pair of tweezers.
  • A cup (for example, urine collector).
  • A little baking soda (1:1 ratio with seawater).
  • Antihistamine pill.
  • Some cortisone creams like fucicort

The process

  • First we use seawater to carefully wash the sting area without rubbing it.
  • We apply a mixture of seawater and baking soda (in a 1:1 ratio) for two minutes to the sting site to stop any further venom secretion from any tentacle cell debris left on the skin.
  • We then use a plastic bank card or similar (not our hands) to remove the baking soda mixture and any residue from our skin.
  • Apply ice to the bite for 5 to 15 minutes. Ice, or even a frozen soda, should be in a bag or other covering, such as a cloth or t-shirt.
  • We check if the pain has subsided and if necessary we apply ice again for another 5-15 minutes.
  • In case the pain persists, we consult a doctor or pharmacist to prescribe analgesics or anti-inflammatory creams (such as 3-4% lidocaine and hydrocortisone).
  • We do not bandage the bite site well, we do not use vinegar, NI sweet water, NI alcohol, NI ammonia.

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