Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Many Jellyfishes We Got?

The storm clouds were approaching fast before the start of the operation and Langkawi folks had already gathered at Kuala Cenang jetty awaiting the VIPs.
As usual, the VIPs were late and the leader of the pack, Pak Man went ahead and started the briefing before their arrival. Pak Man was a representative from KPSP (Kumpulan Pengurusan Sumber Perikanan) of Langkawi who helped organised the fishermen and their boats in this operation and as well as an advisor to all of us. Since there were no marine experts, Pak Man was our only source of information for the jellyfish habitat and behavior. He seems to be the experienced one.

Pak Man shared his knowledge on traditional treatment on a jellyfish sting. Rub the banana peel over! That will relieve the pain. I don't know what is the rationale behind this, however, this is from the experiences of our fishermen. They are the ones out there and experienced  ones besides the marine experts. Pak Man cautioned us all that we must never ever pour tap or mineral water over the sting.

More than sixty people turned up for this event and it was a good number. There were hotel staff, jet ski operators, tour boat opertors and government agencies such as the police and bomba (Fire Department). The operation kicked off about 11:30am after the arrival of the VIPs. The boats headed out to Cenang Beach and we scout the area between Pelangi Beach Resort and Underwater World. 
Scooping nets were used

One of boat with the special net equipment

A jet ski cruising past some swimmers while keeping an eye on jellyfishes to be scoop out

JPA (Jabatan Pertahanan Awam)/Civil Defence Department 
The boat with the special net

Scooping out a jellyfish

Our first jellyfish scooped out

Good thing about today's weather which was drizzly and cloudy after the downpour. However, the visibility of the water was very poor, about less than 5m. The operation stopped after 1pm for a break before continuing after 2:30pm. While back to Kuala Cenang, all the harvest were gathered together.

A bucket full of brown jellyfishes (no idea of its species). This type of jellyfish is the most common one found here.

Pak Man picked up a jellyfish (ampai-ampai in Malay) and according to him, this is the most dangerous one among all. This one was scooped out by the boat with the special net. Unidentified species, therefore I would call it as the notorious one.

The notorious one in the aquarium.

Part of the notorious one's tentacles stuck within the fishing net.
Tentacles at close up
Pak Man demonstrating tentacles is harmless on the palm but NOT on the other side of the palm. 
Please don't try this at home!

Another unidentified species of a white jellyfish caught in an aquarium
Leaders of the pack during the press conference: Pak Man (left) and Osman (right). Osman is our representative for Malaysian Nature Society Langkawi. Kudos to them!

More than hundred jellyfishes scooped up, big and tiny ones. We questioned how such operation would be effective and will that clean up our seas here. Such operation will not clean up the jellyfishes for sure. At least, such operation would create awareness among the locals and tourists. The most important of all, we must know what sort of jellyfish species in our waters here. Next objective is to proof the existence of box jellyfish with the involvement of the locals and authorities.

We were glad to have the fishermen came together to assist. They are the buddies of the marine experts.

Next operation will be tonight (25th July 2010) from 8pm to midnight. From Pak Man's experiences, he told us that the night operation is more effective.  


  1. I was in Cenang and got a call from Osman. Pak Man advised the night operation to be cancelled due to rough sea condition.

    I ended up walking on the beach watching the swells with nice sea breeze and cool drizzle.

  2. LOL. your comment was so sudden it sparked a guffaw!

    hmmmm... We never do acknowledge whatever is in front of us, Never did bother to find out till too late- till we lost a precious species to extinction with little known or in this case, when it would be helpful in times of crisis.

    Maybe Universiti Malaysia Terengganu's Marine Science branch can be roped in? Maybe they have experience in identifying jellyfish species.

    Hope the jellies didn't die in vain.
    and may the signs be up soon!

  3. Hi Raoul;
    About the jellies died in vain. Sorry, i had to put it this way...

    A drama-queen reporter this afternoon was going around the jetty telling people to release those jellies that we caught. I told her that we can't. She must be mad. I must admit that i also felt pity on those jellies too, especially the brownies. If there are lots of turtles in our sea, then I would say "Release them and be the food for the turtles!"

    Osman mentioned about contacting the experts from a local university but unfortunately there was no response from them. And so it was left to our own device.

  4. Great to see Langkawi making an effort to understand their serious jellyfish problem - yes anything that kills and badly injures is serious - though sad to see leaders deny the problem and demonstrate dangerously useless banana remedies. Perhaps try marine biologists at Universiti Sains Malaysia or the Phuket Marine Biological Centre for input and ID. It would also be helpful if all comments were published regardless of opinion making this issue open for free and fair debate.

  5. The common brown jellyfish in the bucket is thought to be Phylorrhiza punctata or white spotted jellyfish - it delivers a very mild sting and is harmless.
    The box jellyfish looks to be carybdeid or a type of yet to be identified Irukandji. Toxicity unknown.

  6. Haha...well, Sometimes, drama queens are needed, to simply be the spotlight that says "There is an issue here!"

    That's what I sometimes do, (sans drama) when it comes to chinese weddings.. where I purposely withdraw my bowl from the shark fin soup.

    I know it probably won't do much help to the fella already in the pot, and probably won't change the attitudes of those happily slurping away at the dish immediately...

    but just by making a stand, I hope to show that THERE IS an issue here... and people will at least ponder on it (even 2 seconds is good for me).. and sometimes the window of opportunity is opened for me to talk about the high mercury levels in sharks and other animals on top of the food chain.

    hoping other readers of this blog can find the courage to make a stand in some issues, no matter how silent the stand may be... It can hopefully alert people to the issue at hand.

    Wchinner, Here's what I contemplated after a chance pass-by into a pet-shop in Bandar Tasik Selatan, Cheras...

    I've posted a similar piece over at Monyet King's page "Parliament passes new Wildlife bill"

    aiyakkk- didn't make a copy just now, and lost what I typed,
    In that particular pet-shop;
    sugar gliders, marmosets, ferrets, exotic parrots, jerboas, are openly sold. I'm just particularly incensed by the JERBOAs bit.

    They are getting worse and worse,
    started off with blue-tongued iguanas, tarantulas, squirrels, hedgehogs, indian star tortoises and now THIS!!!!

    Thing is, wildlife laws through CITES and TRAFFIC prevent wildlife trade through country borders.. but once the batch of animals have entered the country, and landed into the shop.. there is no legal avenues for the authorities to confiscate the animals.

    That was my experience when I called PERHILITAN once upon a time ago to alert them towards the sale of STURGEONS. according to them, they have no clout against pet-shop owners once the animals are 'safely' there.

    So despite the newly passed Wildlife Conservation Bill in parliament, there appears nothing is done to address this issue.. regarding pet shops trading in exotic animals.

    is my interpretation of the above matter correct? can you enlighten me?

    And if so, can you forward this request to some powers that be, or highlight this issue at your own pace? thanks!

    and also, Wchinner, what do you personally think about the media announcing the prices/ value of the confiscated animals? eg price of bushmeat per kilo, RM1 million for the pair of birds recently confiscated...

    I think that this would egg desperate people into considering another source of income. Why is there the need to announce the value anyway?


  7. MNS...what say u? Jellyfish - nature - ??????

  8. Good effort by MNS Langkawi.More information and how to avoid and treat the jelly fish sting should be placed in strategic places for the public.But this should not scare tourists from swimming or going to Cenang.

  9. Hi WChinner,

    While I'd like to congratulate the authorities for highlighting the dangers of the jellyfish in Langkawi's waters, I'd like to stress that ridding the jellies off the waters is not by any means, going to make much difference, let alone a long-term solution to the problem.

    The fundamental cause of jelly fish explosions has been studied time and again and it is found that excessive release of pollutants, mostly man-made, from waterways and coastal areas is the primary drive of such jellyfish-blooms.

    This collocates clearly with the large effluence of chemicals from the paddy-dominated Langkawi lowlands and the Peninsular mainland. In other words, they are the ones that causes this along with other factors such as indiscriminate discarding of refuse into the sea.

    Best way to reverse this problem is to reduce and manage the pollution of Langkawi's waters. And the best thing is, it makes economic sense!

    Cleaner waters means less jellyfish, cleaner beaches, better image, more tourists, increased community wellbeing etc. Langkawi will be so much more authentic!


  10. Hi Anonymous July 27th;
    While some leaders deny the problem, the larger group that are denying this fact are the hoteliers and travel agents. Osman is in contact with any marine biologists for any help.

    Hi Anonymous July 28th;
    Many thanks for the species id.

  11. treatment on a jellyfish sting. The best treatment its Urea Fertilizer, 1kg urea fertilizer mix with 1liter of plain water and shake well. Its produce ammonia & cool feel .
    Use it to help others .

  12. Hi Raoul;
    Agree, agree with you... i hope those sitting on your table will not move away to other table...LOL..

    As for your question on the CITES and TRAFFIC laws on pet shops selling exotic animals, if you can contact Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC. I will email you his contact separately.

    Hi Anonymous July 29;

    Hi Ygrazlan;
    Thanks, Ygrazlan.

    The hoteliers should place signboards to educate their guests in event of a sting. All their lifeguards (if they have) must be trained to administer treatment on jellyfish stings. There is a lookout tower belongs to the Department of Civil Defense (Jabatan Pertahanan Awam. No doubt that they are equipped with jet skis but i do not know how efficient they are and their response time when it comes to emergency.

    Hi JK;
    Thank you for your comments.

    I do hope that the next operation will see us acting wiser by being more selective in scooping up the jellyfishes. That means, ignore the least dangerous ones and scoop up the suspected notorious ones. Such operations will allow us to continue learning about species in Langakawi.

    There are a few hotels in Cenang that release effluence into the sea during the night.

    I wonder why the Jabatan Alam Sekitar is here and what are they doing on Langkawi?? This is another department yet to be tested.

  13. Yesterday a local told me that already this year three people and one buffalo have died on Langkawi as a direct result of jellyfish stings. Apparently one was a Swedish tourist and the other two were local "boys". Does anyone know if this is true?

    I visited some of the filthy waterfalls and as well as a lot of rubbish thrown about I saw lots of huge warning signs (written mostly in Malay - so no much good for the majority of visitors to Langkawi).

    I was told an Italian man died earlier this year when he ignored the warning signs and went exploring over the edge of the Seven Wells. Even though this was a tragic accident it was still his decision to ignore the warning signs - you can hardly miss them.

    I haven't seen any warning signs on the beaches about jellyfish.

    At least if people are warned then they can take informed decisions and decide for themselves.

  14. Hi Anonymous Aug 2nd;
    Yes, an Italian man died after slipping off at Seven Wells. In fact, there was more than three deaths at Seven wells early this year. Sad...

    If you have read the international media, yes, a Swedish tourist was reported to die from jellyfish sting. I wish there was a post-mortem report that we can get hold of.

    I am not sure about the "local boys". I yet to hear anything about that. There were two locals died in Cenang not long ago. They were husband and wife died from drowning.

    Why there are Rubbish, rubbish everywhere? When tourists asked me this question, I often felt embarrassed. Let just take Seven Wells as an example. There are existing facilities such as bathroom, toilets and of course, rubbish bins. Putting rubbish bins within the waterfall area is a mistake. It is for convenience sake and to discourage visitors to litter. Before the bins can be cleared by the workers, the macaques (monkeys) will "attacked" those bins for scraps and left litters everywhere.

    So, i always wonder, which one is easier to train - homosapiens to take their own rubbish out of the waterfall area or macaques (monkeys) to stop scavenging those bins??

    Thanks for your posting to confirm no warning signs on the beaches.

  15. Hi Anonymous Aug 1st;
    Hmm... that's something new.

  16. the brown one is quite common i think, but the notorious might be the box jelly....
    yusri umt

  17. That is also something extremely dangerous; as is the advice about banana skin. the correct advice for dealing with box jelly stings is to saturate the tentacles with neat household vinegar. the aim is not to reduce pain. you need a hospital for that. the aim is to stop the trigger cells from firing more toxin. vinegar is the only proven way to do this. do not remove the tentacles. they will fire more toxin if you do. soak with vinegar and get immediate medical help. google dr. lisa gershwin for more detail. she is the leading authority in australia.
    - Pam

  18. Hi Yusri UMT;
    Many thanks for your help and forwarding our queries to the experts.

    Hi Pam;
    Thanks for sharing your advice.

  19. We were at the hotel back in June when two people - a man & his wife - died. The reason given was drowning. The lady got into trouble and her husband tried to rescue her and they both died. The sea was rough at that time. My wife & I were both stung by a box jellyfish (suspected Irukandji) on Saturday 26th June and were treated at Langkawi hospital. It was a very unpleasant experience. There are no warning signs on any of the beaches that we saw. We were told that there were nets to keep them away, which was not true. If I had known, I would NEVER have swum in the sea. I never would again down there.

  20. Hi Keith;
    Thank you for sharing your experiences here and sorry to hear about your incident. I hope both of you have fully recovered by now.

    That was a report on Malaysian couple drowned in Pantai Cenang. This is the news:

    The question is, did the wife had a jellyfish attack which led her into difficulties?

    Would you like to share further details? Like:
    1) Exactly which area of Pantai Cenang you were swimming that you had the attack? For eg. in front of which resort/hotel/restaurant?

    2) Were both of you swimming or were doing watersport activities like jet ski or banana boat?

    3) What was the response from the Langkawi hospital? How both of you were treated?

    After the event of scooping those jellies, most operators on the beach were still reluctant to put up signs to warn the public to be caution. And there were no effective nets at all. Unfortunately, the relevant authorities did not take up appropriate actions. As usual, our Malaysians "tidak apa" attitude.

    There is this building on Cenang beach standing tall and proud labelled something like "Jabatan Pertahanan Awam", Department of Civil Defence. It has a wonderful beach view looking at the people on banana boat, people sun bathing on the sandy beach and yet what are they there for? The only great stuffs i heard of them is when they were successful in searching for bodies in the sea. I seriously doubt their competencies. How can the drowning of the Malaysian couple happened if the staff on duty had kept a very close watch?

    I always believe media would be the only choice to help pressing the authorities to act on matters. It was good that the Star had finally taken an interest on Langkawi environmental situation,


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