Israeli divers and surfers have been greeted by an unwelcome guest within the waves this winter, the elusively pretty “pink jellyfish.”
Although jellyfish do appear in Israel’s waters during the winter, the pink jellyfish – known scientifically as pelagia noctiluca – is a rare visitor, according to University of Haifa researchers.
In recent weeks, however, there have been increasing encounters with the pink jellyfish, and surfers have reported feeling their stings.
“Jellyfish arrive regularly in the winter, but the appearance of the pink jellyfish is rare in the Eastern Mediterranean, and this is the first time in recent years we have seen it in our region in significant numbers,” said Dr. Dror Angel, a researcher at the University of Haifa’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies.
The pink jellyfish typically plagues the Western Mediterranean waters, causing serious problems for swimmers and surfers in Italy, France, Tunisia and Spain, Angel explained. This year’s cohort that has arrived near Israel’s coasts are much larger than usual, as indicated by reports on the crowdsourcing Meduzot website, he added.
“The problem troubling us right now is that there is no clear reason as to why we have received the visit of the rare pink jellyfish, and more so, during this time of the year,” Angel said. “We found no evidence that this jellyfish prefers warm winters, and now we are mainly collecting data and trying to make sense of this.”
Because the pink jellyfish has smaller filaments than other jellyfish, it does not pose a risk to fishermen or to electrical facilities, as bigger jellyfish species have posed in the past, according to Angel. However, he and his colleagues said they are fearful that the pink creatures will “fall in love” with the Israeli waters and decide to stay here for the summer, when beach tourism is most popular.