Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 17:20 UK

Deadly jellyfish return to coast

Mauve Stinger jellyfish

Deadly jellyfish which wiped out salmon worth more than 1m last year have returned to Northern Ireland's waters.

Mauve Stinger jellyfish were spotted on Sunday on Portrush's West Strand by an Environment Agency worker.

Scientists confirmed the small purple creatures were the same species which killed more than 150,000 salmon in cages off the Antrim coast last year.

The Environment Agency said there was no indication there would be a repeat of last year's "catastrophic bloom".

Marine Conservation Officer Joe Breen said the authorities had informed Northern Salmon, the company which was devastated by the jellyfish invasion.

Mauve Stinger jellyfish
People have been warned to be careful as the jellyfish sting
"A further survey carried out this morning has reported the jellyfish are present at West Strand, East Strand Portrush and White Rocks. No jellyfish have yet been detected further east at Ballycastle beach.

"The species have also been observed in the Republic of Ireland, off the County Sligo coast."

Mr Breen advised people to stay clear of the jellyfish, "which are capable of a nasty powerful sting".

In recent years, increasing numbers of Mauve Stinger jellyfish in the Mediterranean have posed a danger for swimmers.

Their presence in the colder northern waters is thought to be due to wind and tidal factors.

A marine biology lecturer said he had heard reports that the jellyfish stretched all the way from Sligo to the County Antrim coast, but it was not yet clear if they were in isolated bunches or a continuous plume.

Dr Jon Houghton of Queen's University Belfast said: "They occur hundreds of miles out to sea so it is very rare to find them inshore.

"It is to do with the water. If a prevailing wind comes down, they can be carried in."

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