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Deadly Danger on Cornish Beaches

library picture Physalia Peter Soper 2

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 6:01am 7th September 2012.

Deadly jellyfish-like creatures are being washed up on some Cornish beaches.

At least one person has already been stung by the Portuguese Man of War, which can be lethal.

Experts are warning us to watch out for the pasty shaped balloons with hanging tentacles and steer clear.

So far they have had reports from Portheras, Summerleaze and Widemouth beaches.

portugueseThe last significant number of strandings occurred in 2009, although a few were reported on beaches in south west Cornwall late last year.

Dr Peter Richardson from the Marine Conservation Society said: “Last weekend a member of the public contacted Cornwall Council about a small number of what MCS identified as Portuguese Man of War washed up at Portheras Cove. We then had reports of similar sightings as Summerleaze and Widemouth beaches. Our most recent reports were from Portheras on Thursday morning. With earlier strandings in Ireland, these recent sightings could herald the arrival of more of the creatures as they get blown in from the Atlantic.”

The Portuguese Man of War is not a jellyfish but is closely related, and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans – many really tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal. The pasty-shaped, transparent purple float is characteristic and the blue, tentacle-like ‘fishing polyps’ that hang below the float can be tens of metres long.

Dr Richardson warned: “The Portuguese Man of War’s tentacle-like polyps deliver an agonising and potentially lethal sting.

"Because a stranded Portuguese Man of War looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, it may attract the curiosity of children. If you are visiting a Cornish beach this weekend it is well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up. We are urging the public to report any encounters with Portuguese Man of War through our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings."

Rebecca Kirk, from Cornwall Council said: “A sting from these jelly fish may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever and shock. Anyone who thinks they have been stung should seek medical attention immediately or contact NHS direct. Even though they are washed up on the beach they can still present a possible risk of stinging and parents are advised to ensure children avoid touching any washed up jelly fish.”

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