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'Unprecedented number' of Portuguese man o' war sightings on Cornish beaches

Photo: Cornwall Wildlife Trust

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust says it has received hundreds of Portuguese man o' war sightings in the past few days.

It says strong westerly winds are responsible for the influx of the creatures.

Perranporth beach in north Cornwall was temporary closed earlier as a precaution due to the number of specimens found.

The man o' war's tentacles can stretch for several metres below the surface. Credit: Cornwall Wildlife Trust

CWT says 144 people have reported seeing a man o' war in the past three days.

This compares to only three reported sightings in 2016.

144
reported sightings of man o' wars in the past three days

The Portuguese man o' war is often mistaken for a jellyfish but CWT says it is actually a floating colony of tiny organisms living joined together.

The creatures have long tentacles which can cause a painful sting.

According to CWT however stings are only fatal in a few extremely rare cases.

Although painful, a sting from a man o' war is rarely fatal. Credit: Cornwall Wildlife Trust

CWT say the number of sightings is "unprecedented" and the public should keep an eye out for any other rare species that wash up.

They also say while people should be cautious around the animals, they should also appreciate their beauty.

Although the UK media always focuses on the dangers posed by their stinging cells to us humans, stings are incredibly rare and the Man O War is actually a beautiful lifeform, wonderfully adapted to life in the open ocean and are only seen in extremely rare cases on our shores.

– Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer, Cornwall Wildlife Trust
The Portuguese man o' war is often mistaken for a jellyfish. Credit: Cornwall Wildlife Trust

The RNLI says people should not touch the creatures.

If you are stung, Their advice is to seek assistance from the RNLI lifeguards on duty.

Treatment involves removing the tentacles by hand or by spraying with seawater, and immersion in or application of hot water to relieve the symptoms.

Further information on dealing with a man o' war sting can be found on the NHS website.

CWT has provided footage of a Portuguese man o' war swimming around in Cornwall: