Cornwall: Large jellyfish spotted off St Austell Bay in 2019
A monster jellyfish washed up on a beach has raised a few nervous eyebrows in seaside resorts along the North Wales coast. The discovery, on the foreshore at Fairbourne, Gwynedd, is the latest in a series of giant jellyfish beachings in the county.
Estimated at least a metre across, it was brought in by the tide to the mouth of the Mawddach estuary across the water from Barmouth. One theory is that the jellyfish was lured inshore by algal blooms recently reported along the coasts of Gwynedd and Ceredigion.
In mid May another giant jellyfish was found on the beach at Aberdyfi. With jellyfish season now firmly under way, scores of smaller ones have been washed up all along the Welsh coastline.
North Wales Live reported that when a photo of the Fairbourne “monster” was shared on social media, it prompted an outburst of startled exclamations. “Jeeeeeeze, size of that bad boy!!!!” said one woman.
A man uttered a prayer. “Jesus Christ!” he said. Others went higher up the liturgical scale. “My God, that’s huge!” said a woman. Another man added: “Oh my God, imagine if the kids saw that!”
Barmouth is a popular tourism resort and many visitors return every year, particularly from the English Midlands. But the sight of gelatinous giants on local beaches has prompted some to pause for thought.
“Don’t be dipping your toes in when u go,” warned one woman. Another agreed: “Oh my goodness!!! Nooooooo, that’s me even more nervous.” A man from the West Midlands claimed he had already seen enough. With tongue only slightly in cheek, he commented: “Cancelled my holiday now, thanks.”
In fact, seaside towns along much of the Welsh coast are periodically invaded by jellyfish. Most are small and rarely cause problems.
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Like another giant washed in Aberdyfi a week or two ago, the Fairbourne stranding was a barrel jellyfish, common in the Irish Sea. They typically grow up to 40cm in diameter, about the size of dustbin lids – hence their other name, dustbin-lid jellyfish.
They have eight frilly arms, which contain small stinging tentacles and hundreds of little mouths. In deeper waters, they can reach 150cm, making them the largest jellyfish in British waters.
In May and June, they swarm in warmer coastal waters to feed on plankton. Often they wash up on beaches after underestimating tides and wave strengths.
The presence of large numbers of jellyfish in the seas attracts predators. A good jellyfish season is good news for leatherback turtles, the world’s largest sea turtle.
Occasionally, the turtles themselves wash up on the west Wales coast. In September 1988, the world’s largest leatherback washed up at Harlech, Gwynedd.
It was found by a local farmer who said it was “bigger than a cow and the shape of a VW beetle car”. Weighing 914 kilos (2,016lb), it is now on display at Cardiff’s National Museum.
After Fairbourne’s super-sized visitor was found, some people wondered how beach cleaners might remove it. “Need a bigger boat,” said a woman, a reference to a famous line in the Steven Spielberg film, Jaws. The jellyfish is thought to have returned to the deep on the next high tide.
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