Friday, 7 August 2009

Seaside blues on both sides of the pond

Last month our American cousins in Brewster were concerned that their prized freshwater ponds were under attack from an annoying natural pest at the height of the holiday season. And now in Budleigh Salterton it’s the beach where holidaymakers have been alarmed to discover an invasion by a marine pest which happens to be the same colour.
(Left: aerial view of Brewster showing some of its freshwater ponds)
Thankfully the threat from blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, has now receded in Brewster and the pond re-opened after a few weeks. Dying algae can create a toxic soup that is harmful to both humans and their pets, and tests of the water in Walkers Pond on Slough Road had shown a high level of algae that could cause symptoms ranging from a rash to diarrhea and vomiting.

On the Jurassic coast here in East Devon, just when the sun came out after a week of dismal weather and visitors thought it was safe to go into the sea, there were warnings two days ago of a jellyfish invasion.

Rare Portuguese Man o’ War jellyfish (pictured right) have been spotted washed up on Budleigh Salterton beach. Around 100 of the creatures have been reported on beaches along the coast including at Seaton, Beer, Branscombe and Sidmouth, as well as in parts of West Dorset.

East Devon District Council staff immediately took steps to remove the offending creatures, which can deliver a painful sting that can in rare cases cause serious side-effects.

“The arrival of these jellyfish is an exceptionally rare occurrence, as they are not normally found close to our shores,” said an EDDC spokesperson. “They are thought to have been blown towards East Devon’s coastline by southerly and south westerly winds over the past few days. The creatures are so-called because they have small blue sails” which are reminiscent of Portuguese warships in Tudor times.”

Warning signs have been posted on beaches to make holidaymakers aware that more jellyfish could come ashore and giving advice about what to do if you are stung.

EDDC’s Beach Safety Officer, Andy Phillips, said: “Although the improving weather should bring people onto our lovely beaches, they will have to take care that they don’t get stung by one of these unwelcome visitors.

If you see one, don’t touch it. If you step on one or are stung while swimming, take immediate action. The jellyfish can still sting you even when they are dead. Salt water should be applied to the stung area and someone wearing gloves should remove the tentacles. The wound should then be treated with hot water and ice packs. If you are feeling unwell, seek medical advice”.

The good news is that the wind has now changed direction, so the jellies should be blown back out to sea and away from East Devon.

Portugese Men o’ War are commonly referred to as jellyfish but, although they are related to jellyfish, they are in fact, hydrozoans. Hydrozoans are small, predatory, mainly saltwater animals which can appear alone or in colonies.

Jellyfish photo source: www.baasch.org/

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