Something jellyfishy going on? Are there more or less jellyfish this year?

Swimmers this year have most likely managed to avoid being stung by jellyfish. This is because this year’s warm climate led to the arrival of jellyfish before the start of the swimming season in the Maltese islands. Professor Alan Deidun, who runs the “Spot The Jellyfish” campaign, said that thanks to more than 3,000 reports from the public, a better picture of the jellyfish in the Maltese islands could be built.

Swimmers have been able to observe that the quantities of jellyfish this year are smaller compared to previous years, particularly two years ago. The Professor at the University of Malta who runs the “Spot the Jellyfish” campaign said that the reason for this phenomenon is that January and February were warm and summery and this led to the jellyfish flocks entering Maltese waters earlier.

“Because the sea is very hot this year, the so-called fried egg jellyfish or dolphin jellyfish which normally appears at the start of the dolphin-fish (lampuki) season which starts next week, appeared in the channel at the end of July – i.e three weeks earlier”.

Professor Deidun explained that there were about 12 species of jellyfish that were common in the Maltese islands and that jellyfish had their own territory, with each species having its preferred place of origin and reproduction.

“The jellyfish cigar only appears in two places each year – Mellieha and St. Thomas Bay. There is a reason for this – it needs algae. The box jellyfish appears in the yacht marina, because they reproduce in concrete, jetties and wharfs .The cigar jelly fish luckily does not really sting. It is transparent and recognisable from its red cross. There is the sail jellyfish that comes from the Atlantic, which is seen in all the beaches in the west of Malta : Fomm ir-Riħ, Ġnejna, Xlendi, Dwejra, Popeye Village. Even the ‘cassata’ comes from the West and it first appeared in the channel and little by little it turns to the east and north-east of Malta,” explained the marine biologist Professor Alan Deidun.

Professor Deidun said that the jellyfish was a very old species and part of the family which predates the dinosaur, from 700 million years ago and its use is being researched due to its versatility, from the use of jellyfish as food and for cosmetic reasons.

“They are used for anti-inflammatory pills and collagen, even in cosmetics. Collagen comes from waste and from jellyfish which is 96 water and the remainder is pure protein,” explained Professor Deidun.

Professor Deidun said that in the ten years since the launch of the “Spot the Jellyfish” campaign, thousands of reports had been made about jellyfish in the Maltese islands by people swimming, fishing, diving or while on their boats. He said that more than three thousand reports had been verified and thanks to them a picture of the jellyfish in the Maltese islands could be built.

Professor Deidun said the University is developing an app that with a simple photo has the ability to identify jellyfish species at a 95 percent accuracy rate.

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