Toxic Jellyfish Swarm Korea's Coasts

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Jellyfish are swarming along Korea's western and southern coasts as sea temperatures rise. Fishermen and authorities are bracing for an expected surge in the marine creatures next month when their populations expand the most out of their one-year lifespan. So numerous are the jellyfish that the seas along southern and western beaches in August may appear to be nearly half water and half jellyfish.

A survey by the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute says as many as one million jellyfish can be found per square kilometer during this time. Some 300~400 kg of the jellyfish can be caught in fishing nets, tearing the nets and ruining the day's catch.

Nomura’s jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai), one of the biggest nuisances for fishermen. It measures 1.5 m and weighs 200 kg when fully grown.

Some fishermen don't bother fishing until the jellyfish populations subside. North Jeolla Province officials say about 40 percent of local fishermen do not go to sea during the swarm season. Local authorities also complain that fishing catches have dropped by 90 percent due to the annual nuisance over the past five years and 80 percent of caught fish can't be sold as they are damaged when they are removed from jellyfish tentacles.

Beaches are also affected. Already 68 visitors to Haeundae Beach this year have been treated to detoxify jellyfish poison. Some 650 visitors were stung at seven Busan area beaches between June and August last year. Beaches in other provinces have set up blocking nets with rescue workers on motorboats scooping jellyfish out the water with nets.

The creatures began to increase in number from 2000 as they moved northward from subtropical southern China along warm sea waters. Some 250 kinds of jellyfish live in tropical and temperate waters with some 30 kinds near the Korean Peninsula. The biggest nuisance is the Nomura's jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) which measures 1.5 m and weighs 200 kg when fully grown. Six kinds of toxic jellyfish are found in Korean waters, including Nomura's jellyfish. Their sting causes tingling pain and temporary muscle numbness but victims can also faint, suffer from shortness of breath and even die in extreme cases.