Jellyfish - Pelagia noctiluca


Large numbers of jellyfish (Medusa (singular) and Medusas (plural) in Spanish) have occasionally been a problem on certain warm Mediterranean beaches in early summer in recent years. 2005 and 2014 were years with high numbers. In August 2021 and August 2022, the Costa del Sol had large numbers of jellyfish due to 'ideal' spring conditions in the Alboran Sea. Jellyfish usually reach this coast after a few days of easterly winds, which happened in mid-August 2021 during the heat wave after two weeks of easterly 'Levante' winds. 

A yellow warning flag or red prohibition flag will be flying at popular beaches with lifeguard surveillance.

When there are large numbers, the authorities, in conjunction with the Aula del Mar in Malaga, organise boats to remove the jellyfish from nearby coastal waters.

Pelagia noctiluca is the name of the small jellyfish that is most common on the coast of Málaga. This jellyfish is mushroom-shaped, transparent and pink with yellow spots. It has 8 fine marginal tentacles (tenticales) attached to the edge of the umbrella and four very long tentacles that hang from the centre, which can be several metres long. It has a mushroom cap that can measure up to four centimetres. It has 16 small mouth lobes located in the centre of the lower part of the umbrella (bell).

In 2021, other jellyfish were sighted that are not usually so common. The Rhizostoma Luteum is a species of which there were hardly any records in Malaga until 2001. They are much larger and bulkier and attract a lot of attention because of their size. However, their sting is not as painful as the smaller ones.

What to do if you see jellyfish.

Apart from the obvious, keep away from and do not touch jellyfish in the water or on the sand, and teach your children to do the same.  At urban beaches, the town hall will put up warning signs and lifeguards will warn bathers. You can always protect yourself by wearing protective clothing such as a wetsuit, gloves and goggles, and carrying sandals. If you are stung, tell the lifeguard or go to the Red Cross post (on many town beaches and all Blue Flag beaches), seek medical attention or call emergency 112.

First Aid

The first aid to be given after a jellyfish sting is as follows. The wound should be washed and immersed in a solution of 5% acetic acid for 15 to 30 minutes. If this is not available, seawater can be used, but never fresh water.

Inspect the wound and, if necessary, remove any stuck fragments or debris. Do not use bare fingers, towels or tissues. Some tenticles can even penetrate surgical gloves, so remove them gently with tweezers or other objects with a fine edge (e.g. the edge of a knife, the edge of a plastic card).

Although itching is a common symptom, the affected area should not be scratched, at least until it has been cleaned using the above methods.

As for pain, applying cold seems to be the best treatment in most cases, but this must be done using a plastic bag filled with ice so that fresh water does not come into contact with the wound. Do not apply heat. If this cold treatment is not enough, give a painkiller.

Apply a non-sensitising antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. In severe cases, antihistamines and corticosteroids may be administered by a doctor. Keep the person under observation for several hours, and if there is any form of allergic reaction go to a first aid post, local clinic or hospital.

It is very useful to identify the species of jellyfish, perhaps by taking a mobile phone photo.

Detailed Guide and App

A more detailed website guide to jellyfish (in Spanish) is published by Aula del Mar (a marine conservation organisation in Malaga) at 

Updated information (daily in summer) on the status of the beaches can be found on this website or by downloading the Aula de Mar app called InfoJellyfish or Infomedusa. Registered users can report jellyfish sightings. It also includes beach data for wind speed and direction, wave height, warning flag status, popularity, jellyfish levels and seaweed levels.


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