Ex­pert warns: could be big

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Dane Lilling­stone Dane.Lilling­stone@ whit­sun­day­

AC­CORD­ING to one jel­ly­fish ex­pert, if world trends are any­thing to go by, the Whit­sun­days could be in for a dan­ger­ous stinger sea­son.

The Whit­sun­days re­ceived its first re­ported jel­ly­fish sting of the sea­son on Mon­day af­ter­noon, with a 29-year-old woman stung on the arm while snorkelling off Hamil­ton Is­land.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred about 4.30pm and the woman is be­lieved to have been stung by an irukandji jel­ly­fish. She was even­tu­ally trans­ported to Mackay Base Hospi­tal, where she was dis­charged early Tues­day morn­ing.

Dr Lisa-ann Gersh­win, di­rec­tor of Aus­tralian Marine Stinger Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices, who has worked ex­ten­sively in north Queens­land, said it was the first sting she was aware of in Queens­land this sea­son.

“Of­ten we have irukandji in late Septem­ber or early Oc­to­ber. Not ev­ery year but enough to not think it’s freak­ish. It’s fairly typ­i­cal to have one or two this early,” she said.

“Once the first sting has oc­curred then we can well and truly say ‘here we go the sea­son has started’.”

Ques­tions were im­me­di­ately raised on so­cial me­dia about whether stinger nets were in place yet.

A Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil spokes­woman said two nets were cur­rently in place at Dingo Beach and Wil­sons Beach and re­pairs to the Wil­sons Beach net would be un­der­taken as soon as pos­si­ble. A third net at Port of Air­lie’s Bea­con’s Beach will be in­stalled in early Novem­ber.

Dr Gersh­win said she had fears it could be a big jel­ly­fish sea­son.

“I wish I could tell you it’s go­ing to be a com­pletely nor­mal sea­son. What I can tell you is we don’t have a feel yet for Queens­land to what the sea­son is go­ing to look like here,” she said.

“I can tell you that over­seas has been a re­ally, re­ally big year for jel­ly­fish. If there’s any re­la­tion­ship to here it’s yet to be seen.

“But my best guess, work­ing with them for 20 years, is that we might be in for a heck of a year.

“What that means is not for peo­ple to be afraid but vig­i­lant is an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse. We should al­ways look out for them.”

Dr Gersh­win said she had a lot of re­spect for how the Whit­sun­days dealt with jel­ly­fish.

“The Whit­sun­days has a very long and proud tra­di­tion of stinger safety and has been lead­ing the way... in such a way that other re­gions are us­ing it and call­ing it the Whit­sun­day model. It’s a lot to be proud of,” she said.

“You are set­ting the best prac­tice for stinger safety.”

VERY VEN­OMOUS: Irukandji jel­ly­fish are known to hos­pi­talise up to 100 peo­ple an­nu­ally.

The Dingo Beach stinger net is in place for the sea­son.

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