Jellyfish, Unwanted Visitors around Gozo and Malta.

Most popular is the Mauve Stinger!

Some unwanted Jellyfish species enter Maltese waters in early summer. But they don’t stay long and tend to disappear about a month later. However, we have the Rhopilema nomadica entering Maltese waters. The fact is, they should not be in the Levantine basin or the eastern Mediterranean at all. This species, is in fact, a native of the Indian Ocean, many kilometres away from Gozo and Malta.

Jellyfish occupy the waters and beaches of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They arrive in colonies and can be of the stinging nature. Tourists, who are unaware of their presence may find themselves coming into contact with their long tentacles when going for a swim.

Colonies of nomadic Jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica) seem to be moving further west. More towards the centre of the Mediterranean Sea and close to Maltese waters. Over the last 6 years, records show the Jellyfish numbers have increased 10 fold.

Malta’s Jellyfish.

Over the past years, we see a steady increase in jellyfish numbers each year. This increase appears to be down to rising water temperatures, not only here on Gozo, but around the world. Malta’s most common jellyfish is the Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca). We find them swimming close to the surface or a few meters below. They often increase in numbers at times of reduced light. The Mauve Stinger, as its name suggests, does sting! Its venom is not life-threatening to most people. Yet, it will leave a welt at the point of contact, with low irritation.

Fried Egg Jellyfish.

This species is common during the latter part of summer. It is harmless to humans as it possesses a very weak sting. It has very little, to no impact on swimmers and found to have a very low irritation level. They are beautiful creatures and allow divers to take some fantastic photographic images. Read more, here on these beautiful and fascination creatures.

Jellyfish gatherings.

They tend to move around and congregate in large colonies in coves and inlets. When water temperatures begin to increase in April, Jellyfish numbers seem to rise and again when the temperature begins to drop at the end of September. As a result, you can spot these Jellyfish colonies easily, from the coastline or waters edge.

Portuguese Man-of-War.

This species is one of the most dangerous types of jellyfish spotted in Gozo and Maltese waters. However, the good news is, sightings are rare around the coastline. Reports of sightings go from dive centre to dive centre pretty quick. The Portuguese Man-of-War inflicts very painful stings and often requires doctors intervention. In this case, if the Portuguese Man-of-War is around, you should not enter the surrounding waters.

How to recognise a Mauve Stinger Jellyfish.

They are mauve, pink, purple or light brown in colour. The body represents a globe-shaped bell and is small, anywhere between 3 – 12 cm in diameter. Hanging below the bell, a Mauve Stinger has short, pink and white stubby tentacles. On the underside of the bell, concealed are 8 long thread-like tentacles. These trail for meters below and behind the jellyfish. The long tentacles are often translucent in colour and will break off with contact. As a result, the small, floating segments will still sting. Stinging cells, called cnidocytes cover the surface of the Mauve Stingers bell. It is not only the tentacles that sting unaware swimmers!

In the dark, or on night dives the Mauve Stinger tends to glow. The bell is actually bioluminescent.

What do Mauve Stingers eat?

The jellyfish feed on fish eggs and small larvae fish. Small plankton, called phytoplankton and crustacean zooplankton are also on its menu. Planktonic eggs and marine larvae, small enough to eat are part of the Mauve Stingers food plan, too.

What happens if I get stung?

Ask for assistance out of the water and inform others around. The venom from the jellyfish will soon change into a burning discomfort. Depending on the species of jellyfish, try to find something acidic to paste over it.

First, rinse off the affected area with SEAWATER and do not rub it with the other hand. Venom is easily transferred from your fingers to another part of your body; such as your face.

Mix to equal parts of seawater and baking soda. Leave on the affected area for 2 minutes to relieve the stinging sensation. Remove all remaining mixture and any leftover tentacles by scraping the area with a blunt object. A plastic credit card or knife blade (take care here) is ideal for this. Thoroughly wash your hands before touching any part of your body.

The sting can last up to 1 – 2 weeks. Local redness with swelling and a rash are common symptoms.

End results are;

Both Gozo and Malta are usually free from jellyfish. You can enjoy the beautiful clear, blue waters surrounding the islands. Please remember, if jellyfish wash up on the rocks or on the beach, they will still sting, even if they are dead.

The awareness of jellyfish is important to all swimmers, travellers and divers alike. Why not learn more about our ocean species with the Project Aware Course? This is a non-diving course for all ages!