The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Weather has issued a warning of the dangers posed by the species physalia physalis, more commonly known as the Portuguese man o’ war, which is washing up along Portugal’s coastline, the Azores and Madeira.
“Among the species that occur in Portugal, the Portuguese man o’ war is the one that requires the most caution,” opined the IPMA, about a species influenced by winds and surface currents and often is spotted along the Portuguese coast. The jellyfish is a blue color, sometimes with lilac and pink tones.
“Its tentacles can reach 30 meters in length and sting, capable of causing serious burns. Therefore, it is important to remember that one should not touch the tentacles, even when the jellyfish appears to be dead on the beach,” advises the institute.
If members of the public are stung by the jellyfish, clean the affected area with sea water and remove any pieces of tentacle stuck to the skin. Vinegar may be applied and always seek medical advice.
Since 2016, the GelAvista program has been running.
Scientists have been gathering data on the distribution of jellyfish along the Portuguese coast and alerting the public if the stinging kind is in evidence.
The Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war lives at the surface of the ocean. The gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, remains at the surface, while the remainder is submerged. As the Portuguese man o’ war has no means of propulsion, they move according to the winds, currents, and tides. Although they are most commonly found in the open ocean in tropical and subtropical regions, they have been found as far north as the Bay of Fundy, Cape Breton, and the Hebrides.
Strong winds may drive them into bays or onto beaches. Often, finding a single Portuguese man o’ war is followed by finding many others in the vicinity. They can sting while beached; the discovery of a man o’ war washed up on a beach may lead to the closure of the beach.