Hundreds of bluebottles shut down Oakura beach

Bluebottle jellyfish have been washing up on New Plymouth's beaches.
CHARLOTTE CURD

Bluebottle jellyfish have been washing up on New Plymouth's beaches.

Oakura beach-goers were rushed out of the water on Thursday afternoon as a large swarm of bluebottles invaded the coastline.

Regional lifeguard supervisor Todd Velvin said lifeguards had crossed the red and yellow flags, indicating people should stay out of the water until the floating terrors had passed through.

"Everybody who was entering the water was getting stung," he said.

How long the flagged area was closed for would be determined by the bluebottles' movements, Velvin said.

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"It could be an hour, it could be two, it could be the rest of the day. The lifeguards will continue to assess the area."

Warmer water temperatures had washed ashore hundreds of bluebottles, or Portuguese Man O' War, along Taranaki's coastline this week, he said.

It usually happened once every summer season, and as quickly as they arrived, he said they left just as swiftly.

"The lifeguards at the three town beaches, Oakura, East End and Fitzroy, had noticed a couple of swarms of bluebottles come through and catch a few swimmers unaware," he said.

Getting stung on the bum by a bluebottle jellyfish was not enough to stonewall Macka Stewart's attempts at winning a fishing competition.

One of many to have fallen victim to the recent swarm of blue invaders, the 14-year-old was competing in the Urenui Beach Camp Ladies Day at the weekend when she sat on a tentacle.

Near Mimi, the year 10 Inglewood High School student was fishing from a boat when she hooked a snapper and began to wind it in.

She noticed a bluebottle was attached to her line but by the time she pulled her six pound catch aboard she thought the jellyfish had fallen back into the water. 

After rebaiting her hooks and letting out her line once again, she took a seat and immediately felt pain.

"I got stung on my bum and on my thigh," she said.

"I screamed a little and I pulled the tentacle off the back of my thigh and put it back in the water."

Hellbent on winning a place in the competition, Stewart threw a bit of saltwater on the area and just put up with the pain, which she said lasted for about 15 minutes, so she could see the event out.

The keen fisherwoman placed fourth in the kahawai section, a standing she would not have got if she went ashore for treatment, she said.

In the past six weeks New Plymouth lifeguards had treated more than 40 people who had been stung by bluebottles.

Running the affected area under cold or hot water to wash away the sting was the best way to treat the wound, Velvin said. 

"A little bit of ice also helps.

"It's mainly that we need to get the sting off, once the sting's removed the feeling of the sting tends to fade."

Velvin said a local fisherman had spotted a few large-sized bluebottles offshore but it was hard to tell whether they would continue moving landward.

Swimmers and surfers should be aware and keep their wits about them while in the water, he said.

"Once they're on the beach and out of the water they're not actually dangerous. It's only while they're in the water that they will sting you."

Bluebottles have also been spotted at Opunake and Back Beach. A bluebottle sting could cause swelling around the lips and eyes, a rash and shortness of breath. Vinegar, aloe vera and urine have long been popular methods of treatment.

 - Stuff

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