Holidaymakers warned of hidden ocean threats

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Holidaymakers warned of hidden ocean threats

31st August 2010

Holidaymakers going for a dip abroad this Summer have been warned to be especially vigilant of any hidden dangers lurking in the water likely to give them a nasty surprise.

Hundreds of swimmers on Spain's holiday beaches have been stung by swarms of jellyfish in the last three weeks. At least 700 people were stung in just one week in mid-August, with 380 incidents reported in a single day.

Katherine Allen, head of Travel and International Litigation at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "Those wishing to cool off abroad need to be aware of the continued presence of large numbers of jellyfish that have been plaguing beaches up and down the Spanish coast all Summer."

Earlier in August holidaymakers were banned from swimming at many beaches across Spain amid what has been the worst jellyfish invasion for over two years. Several beaches on the Costa Blanca, north of Alicante - a region which attracts an estimated two million foreign tourists each year, 40 per cent of whom are from Britain - were closed to bathers after swarms of the Mauve Stinger jellyfish were seen offshore. The tentacles of these bright purple creatures, which emit a yellow glow at night, deliver a mild sting but can cause severe allergic reactions in some people even leading to heart failure.

Spain's Environment Ministry is now patrolling the coastline on the lookout for dangerous jellyfish clusters drifting to shore. Once spotted, red flags are raised warning swimmers to stay out of the water.

Officials have blamed strong currents for sweeping the jellyfish onto beaches. Over the last several years there has been a huge rise in numbers due to the effects of climate-change and intensive over-fishing off the Spanish coast of the jellyfish's natural predators such as turtles, tuna and swordfish. As a result, tens of thousands of holidaymakers each Summer are forced to seek treatment for stings.

Marine experts have this year also detected a rise in the number of the Carybdea marsupialis, known as the 'Box jellyfish,' to the Costa Blanca.

The cube-shaped jellyfish, more commonly found in the tropical waters of the Caribbean, deliver an intensely painful sting and can leave a burning, itching welt that lasts up to three weeks. "Box jellyfish pose a much greater danger to bathers than less exotic varieties," said Katherine, an associate with the firm. "It is very difficult to avoid being stung as they are transparent and therefore extremely difficult to see."

On Spain's northern Atlantic coast nine beaches were temporarily closed last month after the potentially deadly 'Portuguese Man O' War' was spotted off the coast of Asturias. The notoriously venomous species - whose barbed tentacles can grow up to thirty feet long and deliver a sting ten times stronger than more common jellyfish species - has also been seen off beaches in Cantabria, Basque and Alicante.

"Holidaymakers must be vigilant when entering the water," said Katherine. "Sea-urchins are also a hazard and prove extremely painful if stepped on. Most people unlucky enough to step on sea-urchins experience a sharp pain lasting anything up to a couple of days. Some species however can be venomous, and if stepped on the bacteria present on the creature's spines could lead to a form of blood-poisoning known as septicaemia.

"In regard to jellyfish, if there are no red flags visible in the water, lifeguards on duty should be able to tell you whether anyone has reported being stung that day and if so, which areas in the shallows or further out to sea should perhaps be avoided."

Posters have been placed at beaches across Spain as part of nationwide 'Plan Medusa' advising swimmers of the dangers of jellyfish and what to do if stung.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
If you have been injured while on holiday or travelling in a foreign country, Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling compensation claims arising in foreign jurisdictions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.