Blue skies, white sand, warm sea. The beaches of France attract millions of tourists every year. And every year
holidaymakers are plagued by unwelcome visitors: shoals of jellyfish just off the shoreline.
These innocent sea creatures wreak havoc, particularly on the French Riviera and around Corsica, where it is so bad that an Oceanographic Observatory has been set up to map where the jelly fish can be found and provide information about where the worst affected areas are, so they can be avoided. Hopefully.
The beaches where jellyfish show up most frequently are: Nice; Monaco; Cannes; and Beaulieu-Sur-Mer. But there are maps online that show the weeks in summer when these sea pests are most prevalent, so it is wise to check this information out, to minimise chances of spoiling your day.
Many French beaches have nets to try and prevent these little stingers from reaching the shoreline, in an attempt to
protect bathers and paddlers alike. In fact the problem is so widespread that many French beaches have first aid posts where anyone suffering from a jellyfish sting can go for treatment. Victims are advised not to pour fresh
water or alcohol on the affected area but to wash with sea water, scrub with sand to remove the stingers and then seek professional help. Urinating on the sting is said to have little effect. Alternatively, you could take with you a
product available from pharmacies called Medusyl, which is applied before entering the water. Its purpose is to prevent tentacles from adhering to the skin’s surface.
Jelly fish can be difficult to see, given their translucent nature, and the fact they swim just under the surface of the
water. And the numbers vary, so the problem can be worse from one day to the next, when changing currents and winds drag the shoals along with them.
At one time blooms of jellyfish were infrequent but nowadays they are an annual event, possibly due to warm currents
moving closer to the French shoreline.
Stings are rarely fatal, just very uncomfortable. And not all jellyfish sting. However, unless you are an expert
in the different species of jellyfish, it’s best to assume the worst.
They are not, in fact, fish at all. They are more akin to plankton as they have no brain and do not have the organs that
other creatures have. They have very odd breeding habits too, with males only releasing sperm when they die. The females release their eggs and the ensuing larva can float around for months, or even years, before reproducing asexually, through different stages, into small jellyfish that are then carried around on the currents.
Of course, nowadays, there is skin protection swimwear that allows the wearer to bathe safely. Stinger suits, dive skins and full body swimwear protect the wearer from the jelly fish sting. They are generally full body suits that cover the arms and legs, similar to wet suits that divers wear. Only bare skin is susceptible to a jelly fish sting.
There is also the added bonus that the suits afford the wearer protection from damaging UV rays while in the water,
reducing the likelihood of sunburn, so it may be a worthwhile investment if you are planning a vacation on the French Riviera.