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WATCH: 'Deadly' sea creature closes Cornish beach

man-of-war jellyfish
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6:02pm 12th September 2017
(Updated 6:02pm 12th September 2017)

Swimmers have been told not to enter the water at a Cornish beach - because of a 'deadly' sea creature.

The Portuguese Man-of-War, which looks a bit like a jellyfish, has been washing up along Cornwall's coast in recent days, sparking warnings on social media.

On Tuesday afternoon, lifeguards briefly closed the bathing area at Perranporth - but it has now re-opened.

They say it isn't 'unusual' to spot the creatures at this time of year but that they can be a hazard to beach goers.

They're also keeping an eye on other beaches in the area.

The Marine Conservation Society says there have been sightings on the Isles of Scilly, at Gwithian, Pendeen, Porth, Holywell Bay, Polzeath, Hayle and Tolcarne in Newquay.

Portuguese Man O'War sighted on Cornish coast Please credit RNLI (1)

Photo: RNLI

A spokesperson for the Perranporth lifeguards posted onto the Community Lifesaving Perranporth Facebook group: "There have been a number of sightings of Portuguese Man O’ War along the Cornish coast.

"This isn’t unusual, particularly after windy conditions. Due to the number and potential hazard to water users, as a precaution the RNLI had closed the bathing area on Perranporth this morning and our lifeguards are keeping a close surveillance on other beaches.

"If sighted, do not touch. If you are stung, please seek assistance from the RNLI lifeguards on duty. Treatment involves removing the tentacles by hand or by spraying with seawater, and immersion in or application of hot water to relieve the symptoms.

"In the majority of cases further medical treatment will not be necessary, but those with any complications or serious stings should be advised to seek further medical assistance.

"Members of the public are being encouraged to ring the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s hotline to report strandings on – 0345 2012626."

Newquay Beachcombing tweeted this photo of a Portuguese Man-of-war on Saturday...

jellyfish

Dr Peter Richardson, MCS Head of Ocean Recovery, said: "Portuguese man o’ war are ocean-going animals, propelled by the wind on their inflatable sail as they fish the depths with their stinging tentacles. Recent persistent winds have blown them from the Atlantic onto our shores.

“It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting.

“Because a stranded Portuguese Man o’ war looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating.

"So, if you’re visiting west coast beaches in the next few weeks it’s well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up.

"The stings can be unbelievably painful and in rare cases, fatal. We’d like people to report any sightings of Portuguese man o' war to our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings."

It comes a year after a string of sightings of the potentially dangerous floating creatures off the Duchy and Isles of Scilly.

The Marine Conservation Society says the stings can be exceptionally painful and in extreme cases, fatal.

However, the MCS says the Portuguese Man-of-war, or Physalia Physalis, to give them their proper name, are only occasionally reported in UK waters.

The last significant UK strandings happened in in 2009 and 2012.

The Portuguese Man-of-War is not a jellyfish but is closely related and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans; lots of really tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal.

A Cornish pasty-shaped, transparent purple float is visible on the water's surface whilst the blue, tentacle-like 'fishing polyps' that hang below the float can be 10m in length.

 

Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "This is an unprecedented event and we urge the public to be cautious and to keep an eye out for unusual species being stranded.

"We may see other rare warm water species washing up! Please report sightings to the Trust’s Marine Strandings Network 24hr hotline on 0345 2012626.

"Although the UK media always focuses on the dangers posed by their stinging cells to us humans, stings are incredibly rare and the Man O War is actually a beautiful lifeform, wonderfully adapted to life in the open ocean and are only seen in extremely rare cases on our shores."   

If you spot a Portuguese Man-of-war then report the sighting immediately, ideally with a picture, to www.mcsuk.org, where a Jellyfish ID Guide, which includes the Portuguese Man-of-war, can also be downloaded.

You can scroll through a gallery of photos below...

 

6:02pm 12th September 2017

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