'Highly dangerous' Portuguese Men-of-War seen landing in Gibraltar

Portuguese Men-of-War were spotted yesterday morning as close as 50 to 100 metres off Sandy Bay and some have reported to have landed at Camp Bay and Rosia Bay. The Government says they are 'highly dangerous'. They go about under the codename of 'Blue bubble' and are recognised by their bluish sail or float.

A spokesman added: "The Portuguese Man-of-War is not a true jellyfish, but a siphonophore - a single animal made up of a colony of organisms." Now we know.

These are the symptoms of being stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War: Abdominal and/or chest pain Headache and nausea Muscle spasms (convulsions in more severe cases) Numbing and pain in extremities Difficulty in swallowing Perspiration Irritation And what to do if stung:

•Avoid any further contact with the Portuguese Man o' War and carefully remove any remnants of the creature from the skin (taking care not to touch them directly with fingers or any other part of the skin to avoid secondary stinging);

•Apply salt water to the affected area (not fresh water, which tends to make the affected area worse);

•Apply cold packs, but avoid contact with fresh water.

•Protect the affected area as much as possible and seek medical attention

SIGHTINGS

A press release says: Various specimens of Portuguese Man-of-War otherwise known as the 'blue bubble' have been seen in Gibraltar waters. The latest sighting, reported by the Royal Gibraltar Police earlier this morning, was of a shoal of about twenty specimens at approximately 50 to 100 metres off Sandy Bay and some are reported to have landed at Camp Bay and Rosia Bay.

Beach users, fishermen, divers and bathers are advised to keep well away from them, they are highly dangerous.

This species, more common in the Atlantic Ocean, has reached the waters of Gibraltar due to the prevailing wind conditions that have blown the organisms through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Bay. The increased frequency of sightings in Gibraltar waters has led the Government to inform the public about this peculiar and potentially harmful marine species.

The Portuguese Man-of-War is not a true jellyfish, but a siphonophore - a single animal made up of a colony of organisms. The stinging venom-filled nematocysts in the tentacles of the Portuguese Man-of-War can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those which wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live creature in the water, and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the creature or the detachment of the tentacle.

The Portugese Man-of-War is recognised by its bluish sail, or float, which can be up to 30cm in length. Below the float hang the tentacles that may be more than 12 metres long - the length of a bus - with stinging parts that paralyze most fish and other prey on contact. Some tentacles have been reported to exceed even 30 metres in length.

Although this species is not common in Gibraltar, it could be the case that this species may become a more frequent visitor to Gibraltar waters in future.

02-03-10





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