marine stinger warning sign

Deadly irukandji jellyfish ‘drifting south towards Gold Coast’ as sea temperatures rise

marine stinger warning sign
A marine stinger warning sign is seen at a beach in Townsville in far-north Queensland. Experts warn venomous irukandji jellyfish are drifting south. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Expert warns Queensland’s tourism industry could face future collapse after stinger found at Fraser Island and a boy stung on sunshine coast

January 10, 2018 — Deadly irukandji jellyfish are drifting further south along Queensland’s coastline and could eventually put tourism as far south as the Gold Coast at risk, an expert has warned.

Prof Jamie Seymour has “little doubt” irukandji will keep moving after a stinger was found at Fraser Island on Sunday and a boy was stung on Mooloolaba beach on the sunshine coast 12 months ago.

“It would shut beaches. It would collapse tourism,” the toxinologist from James Cook University said.

Seymour said warmer sea temperatures behind the irukandji’s drift south, and they could become a regular occurrence at Mooloolaba, and even as far south as Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.

The lack of forward planning on the issue is a point of frustration for Seymour, who is “sick of” warning of the risk of the highly venomous species.

“How many more people need to get stung before it’s realised it is not just a one-off?” he said. “Be proactive, don’t wait until it becomes a larger problem. Throw money at it now.”

The irukandji jellyfish caught on the western side of Queensland’s Fraser Island on Sunday prompted a warning for swimmers to stay out of the water.

“We’re urging everyone to stay out of the water entirely on that western side of the island while conditions are hot and humid,” the Surf Life Saving Queensland regional manager, Craig Holden, said on Wednesday.

However, Queensland Tourism Industry’s chief executive officer, Daniel Gschwind, said there was no need for panic.

“We want people to have a great time here and go away healthy. We are concerned about any potential risk but there is no need to be alarmed at this point,” Gschwind said.

Gschwind said collaborations with Surf Life Saving Queensland allowed information on risks to be communicated quickly to swimmers. “To speak about some sort of migration is misleading or premature,” he said.

SLSQ has upgraded its stinger response with daily drags to find the jellyfish after a spate of serious stingers hit the area between late 2016 and early 2017.

rukandji jellyfish
Tiny but deadly: irukandji jellyfish are barely bigger than matchsticks.

There were 10 suspected irukandji stings on the western side of Fraser Island between 22 December 2016 and 5 January last year.

Holden said if a person was stung a triple zero call should be made immediately and the sting area should be doused with vinegar as soon as possible.

He advised people to take a bottle of vinegar with them if they were heading to the island.

“We don’t want to cause widespread panic, but it is really important for people to exercise caution and put safety first at all times.”

guardian_64 by Australian Associated Press | The Guardian