Malta Jellyfish Guide

Colonies of stinging jellyfish have occupied the beaches of the eastern Mediterranean. Occasionally, their agonizing tentacles coming into contact with unaware tourist who wandered for a swim into the water. Now colonies of jellyfish are moving further west towards the centre of the Mediterranean and close to Maltese seas. The amount of jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea has attained record levels, with around 10 times of it 6 years ago.

The unwanted visitors, who came in the early summer time, left within a month, but these nomad jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica) are a sign of a bigger problem. They’re not expected to be here or anywhere along the Levantine basin or the eastern Mediterranean Sea for instance. The fact is, they are natives of the Indian Ocean, many miles away.

However, Maltese waters are more common to a much milder jellyfish.

Jellyfish in Malta

The fact is that Malta is seriously affected by a growing number of jellyfish each summer as a result of rising temperatures. Jellyfish, gelatinous marine animals, are free-swimming in the Mediterranean and usually gentle. The most well-known in Malta being the Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca). They are generally discovered close to the surface of the water during times of reduced light or after washing up on the beach. They aren’t lethal but their stings are brutal. They’re more difficult to spot when they drift alone. For this reason, you may not observe it but feel only a sting.   

The fried egg jellyfish is also common during the late summer periods but it’s pretty harmful. While can be of a decent size it is non-stinging. In theory, it does sting but it is very weak and thus considered as low irritation and does not affect swimmers.

It’s not unusual to see large colonies of jellyfish gathering in coves and seashores all over the island. From previous encounters, the largest numbers of jellyfish show up as the weather gets hotter around April and again when it starts to cool down around September.

One of the most dangerous jellyfish spotted in Malta is the Portuguese Man-of-War. Sights of this “jellyfish” are very rare but it inflicts very painful stings. So, waters should be avoided if one is spotted.

How to recognise the Mauve Stinger Jellyfish:

  • Small and completely formed with a globe-shaped ‘bell’
  • Pink, mauve or light brown in colour, often with a mottling in a similar colour on the bell.
  • Relatively short stubby pink tentacles just beneath the bell that conceal long thread-like tentacles that can trail for meters invisible behind the jellyfish.
  • The bell is phosphorescent, which means it glows at night if disturbed

What do they eat?

Small plants (phytoplankton), copepods (crustacean zooplankton), fish eggs including small fish named larvae; they also feed on the planktonic eggs and young stages (larvae) of various kinds of marine animals.

What to do when stung

  • Sound the alarm with your friends
  • Ask for assistance. The jellyfish venom soon changes into the common and awkward burning discomfort.
  • You need to quickly look for something acidic, for the burning sensation. However, treatments vary based on the species of the jellyfish!
  • For the most common species the Pelagia, the best way is to rinse the affected area with sea water. Do not rub it into your skin and do not use your other hand to do so as the venom will affect other areas that come into contact.
  • Medjellyrisk, suggest to mix equal parts of sea water and baking soda and leave on affected area for 2 minutes to stop venom from the stinging cells.
  • Remove all residue of this mixture and left overs of tentacles.

It is important to note, that even dead jellyfish that wash up to sore can still sting if they come to contact with your skin!

Bottom Line

It doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid Malta as your holiday destination. Most of the year is jelly-free, so why not enjoy the crystal-clear water surrounding the island. The only thing to keep Maltese and other tourist safe is awareness. Jellyfish travel via the tide and wind so beaches facing the tide are more prone to have jellyfish on that day. The Malta National Aquarium teamed up with IOI Kids to promote the Spot the Jellyfish campaign which keeps the whereabouts of spotted jellyfish around the Island.

Nonetheless, Malta enjoys a wide selection of beaches facing western, eastern and southside. So you can easily still enjoy going to the beach.

Jellyfish in the end are mesmerising sea creatures and you can admire them at the Malta National Aquarium. The Jellyfish tank has several jellyfish where you can closely admire. You can easily spot the Mauve Stinger (Pelagia Noctiluca) long stingers, in one of the tanks. Other jellyfish that you can spot at the Jellyfish area are the Moon Jellyfsih (Aurelia aurita). White Spotted jellyfish (Phyllorhyza punctate) and Upside Down Jellyfish (Cassiopea Andromeda). The moon jellyfish has a transparent umbrella shaped with shorter tentacles. The white spotted jellyfish is easily distinguishable with the white spots on its umbrella. So can you spot the Upside Down Jellyfish at our tank?

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