Swarms of jellyfish washed up on the shores of Egypt’s North Coast beaches over the past few days, spoiling the vacations of many holiday makers.
While jellyfish are no stranger to sea coasts, it is unusual to see a huge amount of them at this time of the year appear at the North Coast or “Sahel,” as many Egyptians call it in Arabic.
Pictures on social media showed the sea creature spread on the shores, with some people reported to have been hurt by it. Many people chose not to swim to avoid being stung.
Authorities in Egypt said that the type of jellyfish appearing on the country’s northern coast is called ’Rhopilema nomadica,’ or the nomad jellyfish.
Some claimed that the recent expansion of the Suez Canal could have contributed in changing the ecosystem of the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans.
Citing a report by The Guardian in 2014, the latest branch of the canal would allow species from the Red Sea to invade the Mediterranean, potentially leaving a harmful impact on the region as a whole.
“Once only found in tropical waters, the nomad jellyfish invaded the Mediterranean via the Suez in the 1970s. Now its vast swarms, which can measure tens of miles in width, frequently make commercial fishing impossible and have sometimes closed tourist beaches lining the Mediterranean for days at a time,” the report said.
In an official response, the country’s Environment Ministry said the nomad jellyfish has inhibited the Mediterranean for decades.
It said that this unprecedented phenomenon has been recorded during the winter season in Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus of this year.
It also said that this type of jellyfish has spread across the coasts of other Egyptian cities such as El-Arish, Port Said and Damietta, but recently extended to the North-west coast.
While vowing to put this phenomenon under further studies, the ministry strongly dismissed claims by some social media users on its page, who asked if the expansion of the Suez Canal had an impact on the Mediterranean’s ecosystem.
“Some parties are trying to promote that the expansion of the Suez Canal is the reason behind the [abundant presence] jellyfish for political purposes, contrary to the fact that jellyfish are spread across seas and oceans around the world, and have been present in the Mediterranean since the late seventies,” the ministry replied to one Facebook user.
It is recommended to use sea water, warm water or vinegar to wash a jellyfish sting.