Want to avoid jellyfish? There’s a website for that
Taking the sting out

Want to avoid jellyfish? There’s a website for that

Meduzot B’Am is part of a new citizen science project to help researchers map, track and study the marine creatures and improve their public image

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative photo of jellyfish. (Richard Kim/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
Illustrative photo of jellyfish. (Richard Kim/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

With authorities warning that a vast swarm of jellyfish is headed northward along Israel’s Mediterranean coast, bathers will be pleased to hear about a new service that says what beaches are safe from the tentacled creatures.

Jellyfish tentacles can sting and inject venom into humans, which usually results in mild to serious discomfort but in certain rare cases can lead to extreme pain or even death.

The service — Meduzot B’Am (Jellyfish Ltd, in Hebrew), which is available only in Hebrew — is based on real-time reports of sightings by the general public as well as from people out at sea, be they snorkeling, diving, surfing, fishing, or sailing.

Meduzot B’Am forms part of a new citizen science project to report and track the movement of jellyfish both for the benefit of ocean-lovers and for researchers like Haifa University’s Dori Edelist, who wants beachgoers not only to be able to enjoy the sea but to learn about and better appreciate these silent, gliding creatures made of 95 percent water.

The project’s website says that while jellyfish have swarmed to Israel’s Mediterranean coast for decades, scientists understand little about the rules according to which they live and move and find it difficult to predict when the swarms will appear, which species they will be and how long they will stay.

A swarm of jellyfish at sea. (YouTube screenshot)

Most of the jellyfish that visit the Holy Land are migratory, invasive species that originated in the Indian Ocean and that apparently reached the eastern Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

Bathers are urged to check whether a purple flag is flying on the lifeguard’s station — a sign that jellyfish are present — before entering the waters and to avoid touching jellyfish on the beach, where they can still burn.

Stings should be rinsed with seawater, not fresh water and treated with anti-burn creams. Scientists are divided over the benefits of vinegar, a commonly used solution, the website says.

The project, which has its own Facebook group, is supported by the city and University of Haifa in northern Israel, as well as by the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Science.

Over the past month, jellyfish have already caused problems for electricity and desalination plants along the southern coast, choking up their filtering systems and stopping seawater — used for cooling in the power plants and to produce fresh water in the desalination plants — from reaching the machinery.

A digger drops hundreds of jellyfish crated away after being fished out of the cooling water supply at a power plant in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv, on June 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
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