Tourist Tip #8: Jellyfish in the Mediterranean

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Brian Schaefer
Gilad Halpern

Summer is in full swing and the beach is one way to deal with the steaming hot temperatures. But you aren't alone in those alluring blue-green Mediterranean waters.

Each year hundreds of thousands of jellyfish – some impressively large - ply Israel's beaches, startling tourists and littering the coastline.

The typical jellyfish season tends to last anywhere between one month and two. This summer’s invasion reached the coast at the beginning of July and has already tapered off, according to jellyfish-watchers: Most of the mushy creatures have swum off to ruin other people's vacations.

The most common species of plastic bag-doppelganger off Israel's shore is the Rhopilema nomadic, more commonly known as the "nomad jellyfish," a species endemic to the Indian Ocean that infiltrated the Mediterranean Sea after the Suez Canal was deepened and widened in the late 1970s. The nomad jelly, with its translucent blue bell that can reach up to 90 cm in diameter, continues its quest for world domination with recent appearances in Turkey and Greece.

Three years ago, the nomad jelly was joined in Israel by the warty comb jelly (Mnemiopsis leidyi), considered one of the world's most invasive species. The warty comb, native to South America, apparently hitched a ride in the wake of ships. Though it poses no threat to humans, it has wreaked havoc on the commercial fishing industry in the Black and Baltic Seas.

An encounter with these jellies may not be a pleasant experience, but it's seldom dangerous. If you are stung, the antidote is surprisingly simple: vinegar, which can be found at any first-aid station on Israel's beaches, or any other type of acid (yes, including urine). The mark is likely to disappear within a few days, so no need to worry about an unwanted souvenir.

A fisherman holds up a jellyfish on Dor beach.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
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The more the merrier: Jellyfish along Nitzanim beach.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
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Jellyfish in the waters near Kibbutz Ma’agen Michael.Credit: Moshe Zorea
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No, this is not a jelly turtle.Credit: Itzik Ben Malki