Jellyfish season has hit Israel’s shores again, with just a scattered few of the
gelatinous creatures reaching the Mediterranean sands but many more causing a
dreaded “stinging water” pain as their stray fibers float about, oceanography
researchers have reported.
“The swarm is rather dispersed this summer,
with few – but occasionally large – individuals reaching the shore,” Dr. Bella
Galil, of Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, told The Jerusalem
Post on Monday.
“However, the presence of the swarm offshore causes the
‘stinging water’ sensation caused by detached filaments bearing the stinging
Galil and her colleagues at IOLR first reported the presence of
“a large swarm of Erythraean alien nomadic jellyfish” called the Rhopilema
nomadica – the species that inhabits Israeli waters every summer – along the
Mediterranean coast from Ashkelon to Acre, on July 5.
Rhopilema nomadica’s distance from the shore and its population density differs
along different sections of the coastline, the swarms have generally been
remaining at least 100 meters from the beach, with only sporadic individuals
swept ashore thus far. Due to the population’s proximity, however, there is a
high likelihood of stings, IOLR warned.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the
website Meduzot.co.il – run by a group of maritime researchers at the University
of Haifa – also reported a sizable presence of jellyfish, noting that the
creatures may be present within a distance of 200 meters from the Mediterranean
shore, making activities like walking on the beach, scuba diving and swimming
risky ones in terms of contacting jellyfish.
The website also allows
people to report sightings of jellyfish, descriptions of the creatures as well
as their locations in real-time postings.
Despite the presence of
jellyfish, Galil described the situation as “so far so good,” stressing that
there has been no increase in number or extent of the creatures in comparison to
last year, despite many sensationalist predictions.
species called the ctenophore Mnemiopsis – commonly known as the wart comb jelly
or the sea walnut – may have come to Israeli waters through ballast water from
ships, Galil explained.
In order to provide balance, large ships take in
what is known as ballast water at their port of departure and then discharge the
water at their destination, thereby releasing any organisms that were present in
the water supply.
“Ctenophores and jellyfish are recognized as disruptive
for coastal installations worldwide,” Galil said.
Arik Dayan, CEO of the
Israeli water filtration firm Amiad Water Systems, told the Post on Tuesday that
his company has heavily invested in developing filtration mechanisms that will
keep gelatinous creatures and many other potentially invasive plants, animals
and microorganisms out of ballast water.
For 10 years already, he
explained, the International Maritime Organization along with the United States
Coast Guard have been developing legislation on such environmental protection
for ships – legislation that Dayan said he believes will receive the necessary
global approvals soon.
At any given time, Dayan explained, there are
about 50,000 ships running through the world’s ports, taking ballast water from
one place to another regardless of the potentially polluting nature of this
For example, the Great Lakes have incurred damage from invasive
zebra mussels, brought in by ballast water, he stressed.
of the legislation that will mandate regulation of such water, “developed
countries are already building ships with equipment that filters the water and
with a device for disinfection,” Dayan said.
Amiad is running pilot
programs and working with many of the approximately 25 to 30 integrators that
will work to apply the various filtration systems to the world’s 50,000 ships,
he explained. By 2017, Dayan said he expects this market to be worth some $500
“We need to work in freshwater, in seawater, in brackish
water,” Dayan said. “It’s a big challenge and I believe that at first we’ll have
competition – big competition – but it’s a big market.”
Monday a five-year-old girl was rushed to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera
after suffering serious burns on her limbs and her neck from a jellyfish
The child, Shahar Meron of the Matan settlement, was swimming at
the Dor Beach when she was stung by a jellyfish.
“She swelled up
incredibly badly,” said her mother, Adi.
She was treated and
hospitalized, but now her condition is good.
“Every year we come here for
a week,” said her mother. “We enjoy it even when there are jellyfish. There
usually aren’t many. But this time, unfortunately, one attacked Shahar, skipping
us who were with her, and the damage was serious.
We immediately left the
water, rinsed her skin, applied vinegar and put on some ointment to reduce the
Thirty minutes later, the parents saw that her right hand had
turned blue and started to blow up. When she began to be apathetic, they rushed
her to the hospital’s pediatric emergency room, where she was examined and given
anti-allergy drugs and pain relievers.
She was hospitalized because of
the edema that caused her hand to swell. The skin-burns from the jellyfish toxin
on her limbs and neck were rated second degree. She is now feeling better and
due to be discharged in a few days.
Dr. Iyas Kassem, deputy head of
Hillel Yaffe’s pediatrics department, said that it was important to remember to
rinse the affected skin with seawater, vinegar or lemon juice and not drinking
water, as these were acidic and reduced the pain. In addition, painkillers can
“It was important for her to reach the hospital because of the
swelling that developed – a serious allergic reaction to the stings,” he added.