Jellyfish stings are up on beaches due to heat

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Jellyfish stings are up on beaches due to heat

Almost 380 cases of jellyfish stings were reported to local governments this summer as of last week. Jeju had the most with 149 cases, followed by Busan with 111, North Gyeongsang with 76, Gangwon with 23, South Jeolla with 17, and Incheon/Gyeonggi with two.

Most of the stings took place on the eastern and southern shores.

About 20 beachgoers were stung on Sunday at Guryongpo Beach in Pohang. Sacheon Beach in Gangneung, Gangwon also saw a 10-year-old boy stung on the face on July 31. On the same day, a 12-year-old boy was stung on a leg at Deoksan Beach in Samcheok.

With waters warming up due to the prolonged heat wave, jellyfish are reaching the western shores as well, resulting in a 4-year-old boy getting stung on July 9.

The number of jellyfish around beaches is on the increase. According to the National Institute of Fisheries Science (NIFS), 52 percent of beachgoers polled said they had spotted aurelia aurita, a type of jellyfish that is slightly poisonous, compared to an average of 42 percent in previous years. This is the highest number since the institute started recording the statistics in 2009. The aurelia auritas usually show up in July and August.

Appearances of cannonball jellyfish also rose. Some 46.1 percent of people polled this month said they had spotted them, compared to 23 percent late last month.

These jellyfish, reaching one meter (3.3 feet) in size and 150 kilograms (330 pounds) in weight, are so poisonous that extensive stings may lead to death. An 8-year-old girl died after a cannonball jellyfish sting at Eurwangni Beach in Incheon in 2012.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries issued a cannonball jellyfish warning along the coasts of Geoje, Busan, Ulsan, North Gyeongsang Province, and Pohang on Aug. 5, the first in three years. The western shores are not spared. According to the NIFS, cannonball jellyfish appearances on the coast of Incheon rose to 58.3 percent this month from 4 percent in mid-June.

“Appearances of jellyfish will keep on increasing if the hot weather continues,” said an Incheon Maritime Police Official.

“Cannonball jellyfish are born in the East China Sea, moving along ocean currents to the southern sea,” explained Lee Hye-eun, a research fellow at the NIFS. “Aurelia auritas are born and live in our waters, but they are emerging near the shores due to rising sea water temperature and ocean currents from the East China Sea.”

The NIFS estimates that aurelia auritas will linger until September, and cannonball jellyfish until October.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Security expects local governments to handle jellyfish, and doesn’t even keep data o jellyfish sting incidents. Local governments are taking action by installing nets.

“When stung by a jellyfish, one should cleanse the stung area with sea water, not alcohol or mineral water, for about 10 minutes. Applying an ice pack or a hot pack afterwards helps too,” said Lee. “If the swell continues for over an hour, one should definitely see the doctor.”

BY CHOI MO-RAN, PARK JIN-HO [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]

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