Jellyfish blooms and Upwelling in the Bay of Panama

If you have been to the beach on the Pacific coast of Panama recently, you will have noticed the water is colder than usually. You may have also noticed jellyfish!

Hopefully washed up on shore, and not because you were stung by one while swimming in the water.

The colder water is due to a seasonal upwelling event that occurs in some regions of Tropical East Pacific. The upwelling effect, cold deeper water being brought closer to the surface, coincides with an increase of gelatinous zooplankton (among which are jellyfish). The relation between upwelling and the increase of jellies in the water has not been extensively studied, but upwelling is known to occur before the jellyfish blooms.

The event occurs between the months of January and April varying from year to year. While the in wet season, the water is generally warm and nutrient-poor, in the heart of dry season northern winds push deeper nutrient-rich water to the surface nourishing marine ecosystems, from the tiny phyto-plakton community to the giant whale shark feeding on those phyto-plakton blooms drifting in the currents.

So while we notice the increase in jellyfish (because they sting us) they are not the only inconspicuous creatures multiplying in the ocean right now. Gelatinous zooplankton also include salps, shaetognatha, and ctenophores along with medusas, all of which are important for sustaining the marine food chain.

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

While you may have heard that urine is the best remedy for a jellyfish there is actually no proof behind this. Vinegar is your best bet! Jellyfish tentacles, covered in barb-like stingers called nematocysts, are filled with highly alkaline venom that affect the nerves of our skin. This release of toxins under our skin usually results in stinging, burning and tingling.

If stung enough times, a high concentration of venom could result in more sever symptoms like shortness of breathe, chest pain or convulsions. If experiencing any of these symptoms seek medical attention.