Every weekend, a lot of families and group of friends take the opportunity to go to the beach. It may seem fun as it provides a quick escape from the busy city life but there is still danger lurking in the waters that all beachgoers in Australia need to be careful of.
In just a month, bluebottle jellyfish had stung around 22,000 people across Queensland, Australia. Eight of the stings that happened required hospitalization. As reported recently, there are twice the number of jellyfish stings in Queensland than the typical number that is reported around summer. Irukandjis jellyfish is a relative of the box jellyfish, which is known to be lethal. It can cause Irukandji syndrome, an illness that could be fatal.
There are also reports that the Irukandjis jellyfish have been moving southwards. This could be linked to climate change, but there are no concrete evidence that the jellyfish has migrated or is migrating towards south.
A lot of cases of Irukandji syndrome have been reported in New South Wales since 1905 and Moreton Bay since 1898, and it even went as far as Queenscliff in 1998. So amid these reports, why arent the jellyfish problem not effectively managed?
In North Queensland, there are coastal councils that have grappled with jellyfish risk for years. At popular beaches in Townsville, Cairns and Whitsunday regions, visitors are offered protection in the form of stinger nets and lifeguard patrols. Beaches are also placed with marine stinger warning signs.
But these strategies are not working in the way that was intended. Stinger nets protect the people from the larger and deadlier jellyfish but it does not protect them from the small Irukandji.
There is also a lack of public awareness about the aspects of stinger safety. Irukandju can enter the nets and they can be encountered on the reefs and islands. They can also be encountered despite harsh weather conditions. Also, the public is not warned that box jellies and Irukandjis are difficult to spot in the water.
Not only are the locals unaware of these facts, but the international tourists as well. Although the stringer warning signs meet the requirements set by Standards Australia, it does not meet research-based design guidelines that can make it effective. This means that these signs are in need of a redesign.
Also, officals are encouraged to spread the awareness for the sake of those who loves to go to the beach. This is to prevent any accidents from happening, as some stings are known to be fatal especially those from the box jellyfish.