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Jellyfish numbers on the rise along US beaches

A jellyfish in a tank at the South Carolina Aquarium. Jellyfish were largely to blame after 1000 people were stabbed in Florida earlier this week. Chrysaora Melanaster Jellyfish (Credit: Luciano Chiaverano)

BILOXI, Miss. – If you’re heading to the beach this summer, just like millions of other Americans, scientists say that you should look out for the jellyfish.

After more than 1000 people on a Florida beach were treated for jellyfish stings this week, similar incidents may become more common.

Allen Collins, a research zoologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, says there are more flowers of the jellyfish in different parts of the world, but the scientist is not sure whether it is a worldwide event.

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(A Portuguese man o’ war washed up on a beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. Found in sub-tropical waters, the man o’ war is known for its excruciatingly painful sting. Jellyfish Credit: Fox News)

“When the conditions are favorable for them to make jellies, they produce the jellyfish in large quantities,” Collins said. “People who have studied the jellyfish in certain areas very well, and there are also cases where it seems as if there is a certain region, having a larger numbers of jellyfish. In the literature some people describe it as a worldwide phenomenon and that we are just not sure.”

Jellyfish blooms are known to occur every 20 years, but Collins says warmer oceans, runoff, agriculture, fisheries, and the construction of artificial reefs may have an impact on larger numbers of animals in the past few years. Collins also said places such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea are the main places for jellyfish blooms. He also noted that there are thousands of different types of jellyfish, and countless others that have yet to be discovered.

The majestic creatures are some of the oldest life forms on the planet has existed for hundreds of millions of years. With no eyes and limited ability to move through water, marine biologist say that it is important to recognise the habitat of the animals and know what to do if you encounter them on the beach.

“With the warmer temperatures there is more people in the water, so there is a bigger chance of getting stung,” said Shannon Howard, a marine biologist at the South Carolina Aquarium.

(Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish Credit: Luciano Chiaverano)

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Howard says that if you do get stung immediately from the water and use the vinegar can neutralize the tentacles before you try to remove them.

“Vinegar is your best bet if you’re still stuck,” Howard said. “Most people have no vinegar so you want to get the tentacles out of your skin so you can rinse the tentacles if you can, you can try to use tweezers to get the tentacles off. For the pain and swelling, warmth is what you need.”

Scientist also say there is no evidence that the urine and helps alleviate the pain of a jellyfish sting.

Luciano Chiaverano, a scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi, says that most jellyfish stings occur during the spring, summer and autumn, when people are most active on the beaches. He also says despite the fact that he is demonized by humans, jellyfish have their place in the ecosystem and play a crucial role between the animals of the sea.

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“They are there not just to stab people,” Chiaverano said. “There is a lot of the species in the ocean of fish, birds, crabs, snails that actually feed on jellyfish. Jellyfish are also known for offering some shelter for juvenile fish.”

Chiaverano hope people take a second look at the jellyfish and learn to respect instead of fear.

Willie James Inman, is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames

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