The Pelagia noctiluca, a jellyfish also known as the Mauve stinger, dropped by the French Riviera last weekend. We had a personal and heated encounter with them on Sunday in Agay, between Cannes and St Raphael.
Sea currents carry swarms of the pinkish blobs across the Mediterranean Sea. Some of them let themselves drift to the shores of the French Riviera.
Not good. The jellyfish's tentacles sting and burn. Most pharmacies carry anti-sting creams that coat the skin and provide some level protection, but nothing fool-proof i'm told (i dare not test the claim).
The Pelagia noctiluca, thus named for its purplish night-time glow, normally floats in the Mediterranean Sea in manageable numbers. Their numbers are on the rise. Why? The main culprit is an increase in water temperatures. The Mediterranean Sea has warmed up by 1C since the beginning of the 20th century. And jellyfish predators, such as sea turtles and tunas, are now in dwindling numbers in the Med. So the lovely-named pulsating jellyfish are having a ball.
And they're moving to wider feeding grounds. Remember the spectacular jellyfish strike in Northern Ireland in 2007? See the CNN article. A dense and gigantic swarm of billions of jellyfish invaded and destroyed fish farm, wiping out 100,000 salmon fish.
Unfortunately, the battle against tuna over-fishing is fraught with short-term vision and not looking good. How about introducing more local sea turtles who gobble jellyfish? That's not necessarily effective: the sea turtles may return to lay eggs on the French Mediterranean coast, but they love to wander far out at sea.
Still, many coastal towns on the French Côte d'Azur are taking measures to keep the stingers at bay. In 2007, the city of Cannes installed a floating net that helps to keep them out of swimming areas. Monaco has them too.
Tourism boards in St Raphael are talking about installing them next year, should the blobs return to visit then. Other seaside towns will surely follow suit. A good measure to keep the stinging tentacles and swimmers a safe distance apart.