BEACHES throughout West Cork have become littered with the deadly Portuguese Man O’War.
Literally hundreds of the blue and purple domed animals have been seen at almost every local beach especially Red Strand, Owenahincha, Long Strand and Tragumna.
Tom Doyle, a lecturer in zoology at UCC, has described the Portuguese Man O’War as ‘the most venomous animals in the north Atlantic’ and he confirmed that they have, historically, killed two people.
He said no one can say for certain that the huge influx is as a result of climate change, but he did concede, ‘It does appear to me to be a climate signal.’
The marine biologist said their presence may be linked to the increase in sea surface temperature, or it may be associated with the increase in frequency and intensity of storms.
‘Prior to 2016,’ he said, ‘it was very rare to see a Portuguese Man O’War, but now it is more the norm than not, so something has changed.’
For research purposes, Tom has called on people to log their sightings on The Big Jelly Fish Hunt page on Facebook.
The marine biologist advised people to be wary when walking on the beaches or swimming, because storms will continue to wash them up on our shores.
Pádraig Whooley, the sightings officer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said southerly storms since October are bringing them up from the Tropics. He said he is amazed that given the popularity of sea swimming he has not heard of anyone actually swimming in to one and getting into difficulty.