Portuguese Man O’ War, a jellyfish-like sea animal whose sting is excruciatingly painful but rarely fatal, has been sighted in the waters of Carlisle Bay, the Chief Fisheries Officer has confirmed.
But water sports operators suggested that the floating menace was on its annual return to these waters while most bathers appeared to be unfazed by the sighting.
The aquatic invertebrate, native to both tropical and temperate zones of the Atlantic Ocean, floats on the sea surface and is characterised by blue gas-filled bladders and long tentacles. It preys on fish.
Chief Fisheries Officer Stephen Willoughby confirming reports of the sighting, said the Fisheries Division was investigating the situation.
Watersports operators caught sight of the venomous marine animal just after 11 o’clock this morning.
Land operator of Barbados Blue Watersports, David Layne, said the firm decided to post an advisory on its social media pages to alert persons that the creature was seen off the popular Browne’s Beach at Bay Street.
Layne told Barbados TODAY: “Normally anything like that we would put it up. So, persons are aware of what is happening in the water.”
It is not uncommon to have man-o-wars on Barbadian shores around April, he said.
He added: “It is actually this time of the year that we see that kind of stuff with the different change of tide. They are not something we naturally see like all during the year.
“They normally work with the tide. So they would only come to Barbados within a certain tide and if they are not getting that tide you would not see them. By the end of this month all of that should be over.”
A Barbados TODAY team visited the Carlisle Bay area just after midday and spoke to sea bathers, while many enjoy various beach activities oblivious to the camouflaged creature.
An American visitor shrugged off fear of the Portuguese Man O’ War but said he would not be venturing into the sea.
“I am not afraid. I am not going in the water, but it is not because of the [Man O’ War],” he said.
James Eugine who has been a beach chair operator for a decade said he did not see any of the Portuguese Man O’ War in the water.
He told Barbados TODAY: “They have [Man O’ War] but I have not seen [any] today.
A beach operator, Neil, said he did not hear anyone report they had seen a Man O’ War in the water.
“I was out here for the entire day and we did not hear of any [Man O’ War] in the water. We heard about a sighting yesterday.”
“When April comes you find the current comes from the South East and goes to the North so you will find different species of fish. I saw one [Man O’ War] in Weston, St James,” one operator told Barbados TODAY.
Sea bather Phil said: “They occupy the sea just like us and it is just an indication of how the climate is changing that they are getting closer to Barbados.”
Minister of Maritime Affairs Kirk Humphrey said while he instructed the Chief Fisheries Officer to work with the National Conservation Commission to place signs on the beach. He said he did not want beachgoers to panic about the sight of the Man O’ War but noted his ministry would monitor the situation and keep the public informed.
In a statement from the Barbados Government Information Service, members of the public were advised to avoid contact with the Man O’ War as they can cause moderate to severe swelling which could last two to three days.
“Persons who are stung should remove the tentacles and avoid rubbing the affected area as doing so could cause the venom to spread. They should flush the area with water, apply heat and seek medical attention,” the statement read.