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Expert Warns: One ‘Heck’ Of A Jellyfish Season

By Mark Beale

According to one jellyfish expert, if world trends are anything to go by, the Whitsundays and Mackay could be in for a dangerous stinger season.

The Whitsundays received its first reported jellyfish sting of the season on Monday afternoon, with a 29-year-old woman stung on the arm while snorkelling off Hamilton Island.

The incident occurred about 4.30pm and the woman is believed to have been stung by an irukandji jellyfish. She was eventually transported to Mackay Base Hospital, where she was discharged early Tuesday morning.

Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, director of Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, who has worked extensively in north Queensland, said it was the first sting she was aware of in Queensland this season.

“Often we have irukandji in late September or early October. Not every year but enough to not think it’s freakish. It’s fairly typical to have one or two this early,” she said.

“Once the first sting has occurred then we can well and truly say ‘here we go the season has started’.”

Questions were immediately raised on social media about whether stinger nets were in place yet.

A Whitsunday Regional Council spokeswoman said two nets were currently in place at Dingo Beach and Wilsons Beach and repairs to the Wilsons Beach net would be undertaken as soon as possible. A third net at Port of Airlie’s Beacon’s Beach will be installed in early November.

Dr Gershwin said she had fears it could be a big jellyfish season.

“I wish I could tell you it’s going to be a completely normal season. What I can tell you is we don’t have a feel yet for Queensland to what the season is going to look like here,” she said.

“I can tell you that overseas has been a really, really big year for jellyfish. If there’s any relationship to here it’s yet to be seen.

“But my best guess, working with them for 20 years, is that we might be in for a heck of a year.

“What that means is not for people to be afraid but vigilant is an appropriate response. We should always look out for them.”

Dr Gershwin said she had a lot of respect for how the Whitsundays dealt with jellyfish.

“The Whitsundays has a very long and proud tradition of stinger safety and has been leading the way… in such a way that other regions are using it and calling it the Whitsunday model. It’s a lot to be proud of,” she said.

“You are setting the best practice for stinger safety.”

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