Have you spotted a bloom of moons?

VISITORS to the Suffolk coast this summer are being urged to look out for jellyfish.Despite the unseasonal weather, large “blooms” or swarms of jellyfish have already been reported and, as the UK's seas warm up, more are expected throughout the next few months.

VISITORS to the Suffolk coast this summer are being urged to look out for jellyfish.

Despite the unseasonal weather, large “blooms” or swarms of jellyfish have already been reported and, as the UK's seas warm up, more are expected throughout the next few months.

“Britain's jellyfish seemed to get off to a slow start this year, but then really picked up in May and June when we started to receive reports of large blooms, despite the lack of summer sunshine,” said Peter Richardson, species policy officer with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

“Blooms of the beautiful and largely harmless moon, blue and compass jellyfish have been reported stranded on beaches in southern England, Wales and the west coast of Scotland.”

The moon and compass jellyfish are the most widespread species and most likely to be seen off Suffolk's beaches, but swimmers and paddlers could also come across the blue jellyfish, which has a mild sting.

The compass jellyfish has bizarre compass-like markings.

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The Lion's Mane jellyfish has the most powerful and painful sting of the UK species, but is rarely seen south of the Irish Sea on the west coast, or south of Northumberland on the east coast, with most reports coming from Scottish waters.

The MCS wants people to report sightings as part of its survey work to uncover the little-known habits of British jellyfish to help protect the critically endangered leatherback turtles that migrate thousands of miles to UK waters to feed on their favourite jellyfish prey each summer.

By mapping where and when the jellyfish are seen, MCS researchers hope to understand more about leatherback turtles while they visit in UK seas.

“Everyone is fascinated when they come across a jellyfish on the beach, but it's important to remember to look but don't touch, as some species can inflict a painful sting.” said Mr Richardson.

“So long as people are careful and sensible around jellyfish, there is no reason to panic about them blooming in our seas.”

The survey data will be fully analysed later this year in collaboration with the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, but initial analysis of these public reports is already showing interesting differences in the distribution of the six larger jellyfish species around Britain.

Have you seen jellyfish off the Suffolk coast? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

More than 4,000 jellyfish encounters have been reported since the MCS Survey was launched in 2003.

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