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Remarkable photograph of a one-centimetre Phuket box jellyfish

Jellyfish Invade Phuket, Phi Phi: Help On The Way

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Phuketwan Photo Album, plus Water Safety Latest

AN IMPORTANT seminar on box jellyfish is being held at the Phuket Marine Biology Centre from April 1-3 - and as if to attract an audience, the ''boxies'' have suddenly returned to the island in large numbers.

Today, an outbreak of jellyfish was also reported in the sea off Phi Phi. The creatures (believed to be non-harmful) were at first reported to be on the beach, in a similar way to the recent Patong infestation, but later reports said it was an infestation in the sea.

On Friday, a researcher collected 45 immature specimens of dangerous box jellyfish in Nam Bor Bay, on Phuket's east coast, not far from Phuket City.

The bay appears to be teeming with thousands of tiny ''junior jellies,'' each about one centimetre across.

Their unexpected return since February deepens the scientific mystery about where they come from, and where they may be going next.

Over the first two days of the seminar, experts from as far away as Australia will examine the Andaman region's recent experience with the potentially deadly jellyfish and other harmful varieties.

The third day will bring discussion on warnings, protection and first aid in the event of jellyfish stings.

On April 4, the public is incited to a special seminar at Le Meridien Phuket.

Coastal health officials, epidemiologists from Bangkok and marine biologists from all over Thailand are coming for the conference, the largest of its kind so far. Representatives are coming from Malaysia, which also has a jellyfish problem.

Flying in from Australia will be Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, Senior Advisor, Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, Kim Moss from UniNet, and Andrew Jones, father of a young boy who survived a box jellyfish sting in the Gulf of Thailand.

Mr Jones is now an advocate for awareness.

Dr Gershwin is expected to accelerate an investigation into whether the box jellyfish are likely to spread to Phuket's popular western beaches.

So far, their presence has only been detected on the east coast, except for one sighting at the north end of Bang Tao Bay.

The April seminar has been organised by Dr Somchai Bussarawit, whose role as the chief of the museum and aquarium at the Phuket Marine Biology Centre has rapidly broadened to fast-track research on the mysterious marine creatures.

A Swedish girl died in April last year after being stung on a Koh Lanta beach in Phang Nga Bay, and the discovery in July of two species of box jellyfish in Phuket waters led to increased concern, along with a Public Health warning campaign.

The coming seminar is a sign of the growing awareness of the need for proper safety and protection in the sea for residents and tourists.

Encouraged by the recently departed Governor, Dr Preecha Ruangjan, the water safety campaign gained an emphatic edge with the deaths of six tourists and a staffer in a dive boat mishap off Phuket last Sunday.

Phuketwan plans to continue to promote awareness about jellyfish dangers and the need for safety on beaches . . . and in and on the sea.

Why did a boat that was launched barely five months ago topple over in the kind of typical savage storm that can be expected to occur off Phuket?

We intend to keep pressing for an independent inquiry.

As the accompanying Photo Album shows, the box jellyfish is a remarkable creature. Intelligent, capable of propulsion, able to see 360 degrees , , , and not aggressive.

Stings occur through accidental contact. But we need to know where these creatures are so people can be warned to steer clear of those areas.

Phuketwan also recently travelled with Dr Somchai to Koh Lanta, where his regular check turned up no sign of the box jellyfish.

It did give Phuketwan photojournalist Chutima Sidasathiwan a chance, though, to take some excellent photos of the island and the trip.

The jellyfish mystery continues. When we checked at Nam Bor Bay with Dr Somchai late last month, no box jellyfish were being captured there.

Now the ''boxies'' are suddenly back, and so is the scientific mystery.

Jellyfish of non-harmful kinds have also invaded popular beaches this year, with no scientific explanation. One theory yet to be disproved is that overfishing has reduced the number of turtles and large fish, natural predators of jellyfish.

Contact information about the seminar: 076 391126. The Australian team is flying to Phuket with the help of the airline Jetstar and Le Meridien Phuket Resort and Spa

Photo Albums from Patong, Nai Harn

Patong Jellyfish: Other Beaches Plagued, Too
Nai Harn/Patong Photo Album Reports are coming in of other beaches under siege from jellyfish. As marine biologists determine the species, Phuketwan readers report other infestations.
Patong Jellyfish: Other Beaches Plagued, Too

Yuk! Jellyfish Plague Invades Patong Beach
Jellyfish Album Patong beach is enduring an invasion of jellyfish of an undetermined kind, alarming some visitors and raising concerns about tourism and the environment of Phuket.
Yuk! Jellyfish Plague Invades Patong Beach

Box Jellyfish Photo Albums

Phuket Jellyfish Alert: The Biggest Test Yet?
Photo Album 'Sun, surf, sand ... but deadly jellyfish cast shadow on Phuket.' Hong Kong readers learn about Phuket's biological crisis.
Phuket Jellyfish Alert: The Biggest Test Yet?

Phuket Box Jellyfish: Are We In Danger?
Photo Album Virtually every day now, box jellyfish are being found at a spot not far from Phuket City as marine biologists puzzle over their unexpected presence. Should we be alarmed?
Phuket Box Jellyfish: Are We In Danger?

Phuketwan Box Jellyfish File

Phuket's Box Jellyfish: Out There Somewhere
Photo Special Phuketwan goes back to Nam Bor Bay, not far from Phuket City, where we saw our first box jellyfish last year. The ''boxies'' seem to have moved on. But where?
Phuket's Box Jellyfish: Out There Somewhere

Phuket Alert: Expert Guide to Jellyfish
The box jellyfish found in a Phuket bay have probably always been here, says an expert. She shatters some of the myths and offers hope for safety programs to prevent deaths and injuries.
Phuket Alert: Expert Guide to Jellyfish

Phuket Jellyfish Alert: No Cause For Panic
The Governor of Phuket hears a briefing on the Phuket box jellyfish alert and suggests continuing research, alerting people to the dangers and the treatment of stings, and avoiding panic
Phuket Box Jellyfish:'No Cause For Panic'

Phuket Box Jellyfish: Biologist Sounds Alert
Phuket's Marine Biological Centre has issued an alert over the presence of box jellyfish in waters off Krabi and Phuket. Scientists are continuing to try to define more clearly the dangers, without unnecessary alarm.
Phuket Box Jellyfish: Biologist Sounds Alert

Box Jellyfish Found Off Phuket: Death in Krabi
The death of a tourist off Krabi and the discovery of a non-fatal form of box jellyfish off Phuket bring a call for help - and a claim that many more deaths go unrecorded.
Box Jellyfish Found Off Phuket: Death in Krabi


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Today while swimming in Kata Beach in front of Club Med not only was the water dirty but I got chased by a large mob of plastic bags. Of course sitting in the bay for the last few or more days are a Thai fishing boat and a few other larger local boats. Hmm . . . wonder if there is a connection.
Let's not mention all the foul smelling water that you can smell on the streets going to the ocean.
Water safety should include the quality and cleanliness of the water, too . . .

Posted by Vfaye on March 18, 2009 11:08


Box jellyfish, the world's most venomous animal, are nothing new to Phuket waters, although sightings are increasing. My first in Thai waters was about 10 years ago at Koh Hong, Phang Nga Bay. I see one every couple of years at Koh Hong. For some reason, I've never seen one at Koh Penak. To see them from a kayak is rather ominous. Death is just a couple of feet away, and in Hawaii kayakers are often stung when their paddle picks up a Man of War. Body surfers, including yours truly, often take a man of War in the face when we can't move out of the way on a wave face. That can ruin your day, but won't kill you. (It's just one reason why I'm so ugly.)

One of our guides was stung on the thigh at Koh Nok near Koh Yao Noi in 2003. Thanks to our company training, his injury was immediately identified and he was hustled to the clinic at Koh Yao where he made a full recovery.

I was stung by one on the ankle in the Philippines in 2000. It was like getting shot and my knees immediately collapsed. (I was in waist deep water shooting video.) With no medical care around I did all the wrong things and it turned out right. Within 15 minutes I said I could sit on the beach feeling sorry for myself or go paddling. I choose paddling.

However, the truly dangerous scenario is swimmers or snorkelers swimming head first into a box. Stings on the head or upper torso can be fatal within three minutes.

Box jellyfish have been in Thai waters for eons, but numbers are increasing. I attribute the increase in box jellyfish in South Thailand waters to (1) global warming and increased water temperatures and (2) a lack of sea turtles, their natural enemy. The scarcity of turtles may be the more important factor.

Until we learn more at the April 1-3 seminar, vinegar is the best solution, and that's imperfect. In our company we have jellyfish drills to see how fast we can have the vinegar on the stern of our escort boat. We also have a jellyfish watch with a guide on each corner of the upper deck and guest are asked to swim only within 10 meters of the stern.

Even so, against instructions, a 12-year old Ozzie didn't see any jellyfish, jumped off the upper deck of our boat, and impacted an unseen jellyfish two meters under water, sucking it back up with him. It wasn't a box, but it did ruin his day. We had a fast longtail there and within three minutes and he was off to the hospital. I gave the family a 'rain check' and they are taking me up on the offer upon their return in early April.

The lesson here is never jump into murky waters - you never know what you might find - or what will find you.

John 'Caveman' Gray

Posted by John "Caveman" Gray on March 18, 2009 14:47


Yawn. More shameless self-promotion masquerading as commentary and advice from John Gray.

Posted by Colin Freeman on March 18, 2009 23:15


What the...? Why is there a diatribe about the tragedy of the Dive Asia boat in the middle of this article? A little off topic and nonsensical. Was it meant to be edited out? How odd.

Posted by kelly on March 19, 2009 13:23

Thursday May 30, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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