Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thai Box Jellyfish - The Tentacle Connection

Thai Box Jellyfish - The Tentacle Connection

After various posts on this topic, not necessarily dive related as such, but something for divers in Thailand to be aware of nonetheless, especially after a personal encounter with a box jelly fish on Chaweng reef in 2003, this interesting press release came up through Andrew Jones, father of a young boy who survived a box jellyfish sting in the Gulf of Thailand and who is now an advocate for stinger awareness;

Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery’s Curator of Natural Science is packing her bags and bound for Thailand this week, at the invitation of the Phuket Marine Biology Centre & Thailand Ministry of Public Health to take part in an important workshop and conference about lethal box jellyfish.

Accompanying Dr Gershwin on her trip to Thailand from Australia will be Kim Moss from UniNet Qld (manufacturers of stinger nets), and Andrew Jones from Victoria, who as the father of a young boy who survived a box jellyfish sting in the Gulf of Thailand is now an advocate for stinger awareness.

And as if right on cue, the ''boxies'' have suddenly returned to the island with a researcher collecting almost 40 immature specimens just over a week ago of dangerous box jellyfish in Nam Bor Bay, on Phuket's east coast, not far from Phuket City.

Along with her seminar duties, Dr Gershwin will be involved in 4 days of field work, where she hopes to quickly grasp the ‘lay of the land’ and ascertain which areas are more – or indeed, less – prone to stingers, and whether the box jellyfish are likely to spread to Phuket's popular western beaches.

The April 1-3 seminar has been organised by Dr Somchai Bussarawit, Chief of the Museum and Aquarium at the Phuket Marine Biology Centre, to fast-track local research and knowledge on the marine creatures. Coastal health officials, epidemiologists from Bangkok and marine biologists from all over Thailand will be attending the conference, the largest of its kind so far. Representatives are also coming from Malaysia, which has a jellyfish problem. Topics covered during the seminar will include:

-prediction of the spread of jellyfish
-identification of species
-prevention of stings
-first aid treatment of stings

The seminar is a sign of the growing awareness of the need for proper safety and protection in the sea for residents and tourists, and according to Dr Gershwin, her attendance at the seminar “is the neighbourly thing to do… one country helping another. Not only can we offer assistance in helping the Thai people understand the issues around jellyfish populations and treatment of stings, it’s also about raising awareness of the issue and being responsible to Australian tourists who regularly visit Thailand.”

The Australian team is flying to Phuket with the help of the airline Jetstar and Le Meridien Phuket Resort and Spa. No member of the team is being renumerated for their attendance.

About Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin:

Dr. Lisa-ann Gershwin is the Curator of Natural Science at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and is currently also the Director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, and is on the Medical Advisory Panel for St. John Ambulance. Prior to her appointment in Launceston, she served as the National Marine Stinger Advisor and was based in Townsville.

Lisa was born in California, and holds a PhD in Marine Biology from James Cook University in Queensland. She originally came to Tasmania in 1998 on a Fulbright Fellowship, to study the effects of jellyfish blooms on commercial fisheries. Finding herself in demand in both Australia and the United States, she spent time in both countries studying problem jellyfish and their management.

Lisa’s role at Launceston City Council’s QVMAG involves scientific research with an emphasis on jellyfish, community education about science, and the development of exhibits. Her numerous other activities include running the Marine Stinger Safety and Education Roadshow in tropical Australia, and advising the Thai government on stinger management.

The Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery is proudly owned and operated by Launceston City Council.

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