BEACH goers between Wilsons Promontory and Phillip Island are being urged to take care to avoid being stung as significant numbers of potentially harmful Bluebottle jellyfish have been spotted around coastal areas and bays.
However, it may be that the warning is both too late and too hard to comply with.
After a flush of Bluebottles and other jellyfish two weeks ago, with hundreds of them strewn along the surf beach at Inverloch and many other popular beaches, there is now little sign of them on the beach or in the water.
And while swimmers were being stung by these pesky critters a few weeks, they hard to avoid because you can’t really see them in the water.
Bluebottle jellyfish have a small deep-blue air-filled float that looks like a half blown-up piece of chewing gum (and gets to about the size of an egg). Long, thin retractable tentacles hang below this float and can get up to three metres long. According to Parks Victoria, the tentacles are covered in powerful stinging cells.
Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning are asking people to be aware and avoid being stung by these animals. Look for their presence on the beach, do not touch the animals with bare skin and if present, do not enter the water.
“These small jellyfish of the open ocean more commonly occur along the New South Wales coasts and only occasionally visit Victorian waters when easterly winds and currents combine to carry them across Bass Strait. Because of their small size, blue colour and thin tentacles, they are almost impossible to see in the water so it’s best to avoid swimming where they are seen washed up on beaches,” said Dr Mark Norman, Chief Conservation Scientist at Parks Victoria.
“Over the last couple of weeks large numbers of blue jelly like animals have been washing up on Victoria’s west coast.
“These include the potentially harmful Bluebottle jellyfish which has a distinctive gas filled bladder on top to catch the wind and help the animals move across water, and a mass of stinging tentacles beneath.
“Another blue animal turning up in larger number at the moment often with the Bluebottles are “By The Wind Sailors” (Velella velella).
“These have a flat body surrounded by a ring of small tentacles, and a stiff sail like structure on the top which is used by the animals to drift across the surface of the sea. These animals are generally considered harmless to people,” he said.
• Bluebottles are frequently seen along the east coast of Australia during summer months although are not usually as common in southern and western Victoria.
• The sudden appearance of large numbers of Bluebottles are a consequence of prevailing easterly winds and currents over previous days and weeks, pushing these open ocean animals ashore, with some washing up on beaches.
Danger to humans
• Bluebottles can deliver a painful sting when the tentacles make contact with bare skin, even when washed up dead on the beach.
• Intense pain may be felt from a few minutes to many hours and can develop into a dull ache that can spread to surrounding joints.
• Children, asthmatics and people with allergies can be badly affected and many cases of respiratory distress have been reported in Australia.
• If stinging occurs, leave the water immediately and wash off any adherent tentacles with salt water.
• If any tentacles are still attached to the skin, gently lift off with tweezers or a gloved hand to minimise more stinging capsules from being fired.
• Do not rub the area with wet sand or towel, or wash with alcohol or vinegar as this will only make it worse.
Sightings can be reported to DELWP on 136 186.