Vigilance on Basque beaches because of Portuguese man o´war jellyfish

by Lorraine Williamson
Portuguese jellyfish

SAN SEBASTIAN – On Sunday, the first examples of Portuguese man o´war were discovered in San Sebastian. Three people had to be treated for bites. Since then, coastal communities have been vigilant for these jellyfish, which are not actually jellyfish. 

The Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis) is a state jellyfish found in the warmer seas. It looks like a jellyfish, however, it isn’t one. It is a complex colony of hundreds of polyps. Two people were bitten on Ondarreta Beach and another on Santa Clara Island. 

Also read: Explosion of ‘Huevo Frito’ jellyfish in Mar Menor 

For this reason, the yellow flag was raised on Monday. However, from the moment the lifeguards and the beach cleaning boat carried out an inspection and found no further jellyfish, the green flag was raised again. 

As reported by EFE, the mayor of San Sebastián, Eneko Goia, explained at a press conference on Tuesday that “only two have been found dead so far”, one in the area of the island of Santa Clara and another in La Zurriola, while the bay of La Concha remains “clean”. 

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“It is not the first time” that “Portuguese man o´war” have appeared on the beaches of San Sebastián, Goia recalled, adding that outside “being careful, little can be done” against this problem. 


However, the city services and lifeguards remain “highly vigilant” to detect the possible presence of these jellyfish in swimming areas and issue corresponding warnings to the users through the flags that regulate and indicate swimming conditions. 


In Zarautz, sources at the town hall indicated that after medical treatment on the beach from a jellyfish sting last Sunday, and after the discovery yesterday, Monday, of “several specimens” on the coast and “some cases” of affected persons, throughout the day the red flag flew. Swimming was therefore prohibited on this entire beach. During Tuesday’s check of the swimming areas by the rescue services, “only one specimen was detected and removed”. That is why the yellow flag is currently flying and “swimming with caution” is allowed. 

Hondarribia and Getaria 

According to sources from the Red Cross, which is responsible for the rescue service on Hondarribia beach and the two in Getaria, green flags are flying on these three beaches. However, there was a yellow flag on Monday. That was after “some interventions” were made due to the presence of these Portuguese man o´ war. Although no affected individuals have been recorded in Bizkaia, some specimens of this species have been seen next to the beaches. 

Also read: Carefree swimming without jellyfish in Spain? Do the check 

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