Friday, February 8, 2008

Jellyfish invade San Bartolo!

Well I had been surfing at San Bartolo for a couple of weeks with no real problems. I found it to be my favorite beach in the area. I'd see a jellyfish or two every day, but mostly in the calmer waters that weren't used for surfing.

Then all the sudden last weekend the jellyfish showed up in force! There were tons of them all over the place, near the shore, along the jetties, in the surf, etc. Earlier this week, I went out to try to surf with just some board shorts and a rash vest. I could barely look at the incoming waves because I was surrounded by huge (~2 foot diameter w/ 4 tentacles about 1 meter each) jellyfish (malaguas, aguamalas, yellyfish, medusas)! I asked some of the locals in the water about the sting and I was told that it hurt badly. Every time I looked for a wave and then looked back around my board, I'd have a jellyfish only 1-3 feet away from me. When I'd finish a wave, I'd always end up right next to more jellyfish.

I decided to leave the water early and come back next time with a full wet suit. But that night I read all kinds of stories about how people had duck dived waves and ended up with jellyfish stings on their faces and eyes! Some people's eyes swelled up so big that their forehead connected to their cheek bones. Others have vision loss...

The next day I headed back to San Bartolo with my full wet suit to see how things were going. There were even more jellyfish than the day before. Just from the jetty, I could see at least 30 large jellyfish. At this point some of them had started to wash up on the beaches and the rocks. So they are slowly being ripped apart and dying, but I just checked again today and there are plenty still in the water. It's not safe for people swimming because so many are in the waves breaking onto the beach.

In my research, I found that Australia has jellyfish problems in January (sometimes they come in late December, like 2006). I imagine the same applies to South America. It looks like they are a little late this year due to La NiƱa keeping the water temps down (showing up in early February 2008). Many public beaches in Australia have surface nets setup just to catch jellyfish so that they won't wash up on shore. This is because Australia has the most deadly and painful species (Man 'o War/Blue Bottle and Box Jellyfish). I guess that sea turtles and sun fish eat jellyfish, but I'm not sure what else does. The ones washed up on shore don't seem to get much attention from the birds or the flies. Some Chinese (and other Asian) foods include parts of the jellyfish.

From what I've been reading, they should die off in a couple of weeks and no longer be a problem. But it stinks waiting for them to die, many of the locals don't seem to care and the lineup still seems to be busy. But I've also seen a number of locals with some pretty big scars on their chests and backs, not sure if they are from jellyfish though. The water is crystal clear and the waves are great! Die jellyfish die!

If anyone knows the species or has information on the jellyfish in these photos (have you been stung by one?), please let me know!

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