A rise in sightings of Portuguese man o’war jellyfish, which can cause whip-like wounds from their stings, has been recorded in a marine wildlife survey along the UK coast.
Members of the public have reported a total of 1,315 jellyfish sightings to the Marine Conservation Society for its annual review, including a 2% increase in man-of-war.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: ‘Storms in October 2021 and February 2022 resulted in increased sightings of Portuguese men-of-war, which were up 2% on the previous year .
“Despite having a bad reputation, these jellyfish-like creatures are not normally found in UK waters, preferring instead to drift in the open sea.”
‘Sightings of these unusual visitors have mainly been along the south west coast and west coast of Scotland, with westerly winds carrying them across the Atlantic to our shores.
“Sometimes the purple sea snail beached at the same time, which floats on the surface in bubble rafts, feeding on Portuguese men-of-war.”
The MCS regularly records sightings of eight species of jellyfish, with the compass jellyfish and moon jellyfish each accounting for 23% of sightings, seen in slaps – the collective name for jellyfish – of more than 100.
The spokeswoman said a further 11 species had been spotted and added: ‘The charity has seen an increase in ‘other’ species reported from 5% to 9% this year.
“Among these were bioluminescent crystal jellyfish, which accounted for 3% of total sightings, and gooseberries at 1% – the highest percentages reported to date.”
“Monitoring reports of ‘other’ species like these could show how changes in temperature could impact jellyfish diversity in the UK.
“Crystal jellyfish are commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, rarely spotted in UK waters, suggesting warmer temperatures could be impacting jellyfish diversity in the UK.”
A total of 11 turtles, which feed on jellyfish, were reported, six of which were live leatherback turtles spotted on the Scottish coast.
Amy Pilsbury, MCS Citizen Science Project Manager, said: ‘We are using these observations, alongside scientists, to spot trends in the distribution of jellyfish and sea turtles in the UK.
“Studying species relationships can help us learn more about our amazing underwater world and how it might change in response to things like climate change.”
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