The Costa del Sol's first weekend of real summer weather coincided with the arrival of an enormous swarm of jellyfish. Thousands of stinging Pelagia Noctiluca washed up onto beaches along the Costa del Sol, from Nerja all the way to Benalmádena.
The appearance of jellyfish on the shores of this province is not rare nor isolated. According to the director of the Malaga Oceanographic Institute, Jorge Baro, large groups of jellyfish have been appearing on the surrounding coasts "for years", though the invertebrates are normally small in size.
Town councils hoisted yellow flags on the affected beaches along the Axarquía coastline on Saturday, to warn visitors, while the beach-cleaning services used tractors and boats to remove the jellyfish from the beaches and the bathing water. Between Saturday and Wednesday, authorities had moved over 15 tonnes of jellyfish from the shores. Infomedusa, an app set up by the provincial authority in 2013, keeps bathers informed in real time of the situation.
Jesús Bellido, a specialist from the Aula del Mar environmental organisation and coordinator of Informedusa says that there is no "single explanation" for the infestation, but highlights the fact that abundant rain during recent months plus the strong and changing winds have attracted the jellyfish toward the shores. The reduction in numbers of sea turtles, the jellyfish's natural predator is also thought to contribute to the increase.
Baro adds that this infestation should be treated as a "natural process", which may have been accelerated by global warming. "We hope that this is the end of this particular episode, but it is difficult to predict."
As well as preventing sunbathers from enjoying the sea, the presence of the swarms of jellyfish over the weekend has had an impact upon the local fishing industry. In some parts on the eastern coast, boats captured more jellyfish than fish in their fishing nets.
Despite the fact that some areas of the Axarquía coast were off limits on Saturday, by the end of the weekend beaches were once more flooded with swimmers and sunbathers. Fina Osoria, a visitor to the crowded Misercordia beach in Malaga on Sunday said, "The water is very cold anyway, so no one is complaining about jellyfish".
However, in the case that a bather is stung by a jellyfish, the Aula del Mar recommends that they inform a lifeguard or another member of beach personnel, who will advise them on the best way to proceed. If this is not possible, the bather should wash their sting with water from the sea and remove any remaining jellyfish tentacles from their person using a card or some tweezers. Ice may help with pain and antiseptic solution will disinfect the wound.