Devon and Cornwall fishermen haul barrel jellyfish blooms

Barrel jellyfish in sea Image copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Image caption Barrel jellyfish have been spotted all around Devon and Cornwall's coastline

Large blooms of barrel jellyfish "the size of dustbin lids" are being hauled in by Devon and Cornwall fishermen.

Dozens of sightings have been reported to authorities of the creatures, which are the largest species of jellyfish found in the south west of England.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) says many are being caught in fishing nets and are being washed up on beaches.

Experts say their stings are not powerful enough to harm humans, but people are advised not to touch them.

Fisherman at Cadgwith, John Trewin, has had three or four bundled up in his nets this week and was stung in the face.

"It felt like being slapped with stinging nettles, the tentacles flew in my eyes and cheeks when I pulled up the net."

Andy Wheeler, from the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, said the creatures can be a nuisance to local fishermen.

"There are so many of them that they often get caught up in nets.

"It has been a real problem for fishermen because they fill up the trawler and slow boats down."

Image copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Image caption Female barrel jellyfish have red markings and males have bluish tints

Matt Slater, from the wildlife trust, said it was unusual that so many have stayed in the region as they normally move around.

"It's difficult to say what is causing their appearance, but it could be because there is more plankton for the jellyfish to feed on because of warmer waters."

The 90cm (35in) wide barrel jellyfish can weigh up to 25kg (55lb) and have tentacles that can hang down by as much as 6ft (1.9m).

Steve Hussey, from the Devon Wildlife Trust, says the increase could be because of fewer predators in the region's seas.

"The leatherback turtle is struggling at the moment, which means there are less of them to eat the jellyfish.

"We're getting reports from fishermen that they're catching more jellyfish than fish".

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Leatherback turtles are a predator of the barrel jellyfish

In May last year, large swarms of the same species were spotted around Cornwall's south coast.

Similar blooms are again being seen in areas such as Paignton, Thurlestone, Looe and Mevagissey.

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