Expert warns of impending jellyfish threat, calls for more safety measures

Opalyn Mok
A team from St John’s Ambulance demonstrates hand CPR during the Emerging Jellyfish Threat Seminar in George Town August 27, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 27 — Pollution and higher temperatures are causing an increased number of jellyfish in the sea, which will be a threat to beachgoers in the country, a marine life expert said today.

The authorities must take precautionary measures to mitigate this rising threat, Centre of Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) director Aileen Tan said.

“There should be designated swimming areas along public beaches and safety nets should be put up around these areas to prevent jellyfish from encroaching into these areas,” she said during a talk titled “The Emerging Jellyfish Threat” organised by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) at Bayview Beach Resort in Batu Ferringhi here.

She proposed that first aid stations, equipped with vinegar, be set up along beaches for immediate treatment of jellyfish stings.

A physician from Kuala Krai Hospital, Dr Mohd Shukruddeen Salleh, also proposed that poles containing bottles of vinegar be placed along beaches with a higher threat of jellyfish.

“The authorities should also put up warning signs of jellyfish danger along affected coasts and start a ‘bring your own vinegar’ campaign so that beachgoers always have a bottle of vinegar with them in case of jellyfish stings,” he said.

He added that it is important that beachfront hotel employees are trained to treat jellyfish stings to prevent fatalities.

State exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo along with Penang Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang (2nd right) and other VIPs look at a vinegar post during the Emerging Jellyfish Threat Seminar in George Town August 27, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Vinegar can be used to neutralise the poisonous stings of jellyfish, he said.

While pollution was blamed for the rising threat of jellyfish along the shoreline, Tan said the sea creatures are also attracted to plant fertiliser and other nutrients in the water.

“Nutrients such as plankton and algae can also attract jellyfish to the coastal areas,” she said.

She said it is important for the local authorities to keep the waterways leading to the sea clean to reduce the growth of algae and plankton.

Cemacs, which is under Universiti Sains Malaysia, is currently conducting a study on the number of jellyfish along the coast of Penang.

Director of Ocean and Coastal Learning Centre from Universiti Sains Malaysia Datuk Aileen Tan addresses the Emerging Jellyfish Threat Seminar in George Town August 27, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Tan said between July 2017 and August this year, they found seven different types of jellyfish.

The most common jellyfish found is the “ribbon jelly” and the coasts with the greatest number are off Teluk Bahang, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi as well as Perai on the mainland.

“This is just a preliminary study as we are continuing our study for another year to pinpoint a peak season and establish a trend,” she said.

She said there is a need to come up with a database to record jellyfish sting cases nationally so that the authorities can keep track of such incidents.

Earlier, in his speech, MBPP Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang said last year, two people died due to jellyfish stings, one in Langkawi and another in Penang.

“There are many other cases that were unreported, so it is important that we create more awareness on the threat of jellyfish off our coast,” he said.

He added that jellyfish attacks off the coast of Penang are seasonal, but it is important that appropriate action is taken to handle such cases.

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