Warning over Portuguese man-of-war sighting
6:24pm Monday 10th September 2012 in News
Swimmers and surfers in Pembrokeshire have been urged to be on the lookout for the Portuguese man-of-war, which has a potentially lethal sting, following a sighting at Abermawr beach, near Mathry.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) confirmed the creature, which is a close relative of the jellyfish, was spotted on September 2 - around the same time as 16 sightings were reported off the coast of Cornwall and a recent spate of strandings in Ireland.
MCS biodiversity programme manager Dr Peter Richardson said the increase in recent sightings "could herald the arrival of more creatures as they get blown in from the Atlantic."
The Portuguese-man-of-war is not a single animal but a floating colony of hydrozoans - very small marine organisms which live together as one animal.
It is Cornish pasty-shaped, with a transparent purple float and blue, tentacle-like fishing polyps which hang below and can be tens of metres long.
Dr Richardson said: “The Portuguese man-of-war’s tentacle-like polyps deliver an agonising and potentially lethal sting.
“Because a stranded Portuguese man-of-war looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, it may attract the curiosity of children," he added.
Powell Strong, a lecturer in marine and animal science at Pembrokeshire College, said he knew someone who had been stung by a Portugese man-of war in the Azores and very nearly died.
"They are extremely dangerous - people die from them. If you get the whole sting then that's really serious," he added.
"It's a matter of treating any sting very seriously and getting help immediately, particularly if the tentacle is stuck on the body because it continues to sting."
The Portuguese man-of-war, also known as physalia physalis, is normally found in warmer seas and not usually in UK waters.
Sightings can be reported by clicking on the wildlife protection link at www.mcsuk.org. A guide for identifying the Portuguese man-of-war can also be found on the website.