A British beach is on high alert after record numbers of the potentially-fatal Portuguese man o’ war washed up on the Cornish coast, according to conservationists.
The Cornwall Wildlife Trust said there had been 144 sightings in the last three days, beating the previous record of 40 recorded in 2000 and 2009 by over 100.
They said that the creatures were washing up because of the strong westerly winds pounding the British coastline.
The Marine Conservation Society said there had also been sightings reported on beaches in Pembrokeshire, Isles of Scilly and Ireland.
Perranporth beach in north Cornwall was temporary closed as a precaution due to the numbers found.
The Portuguese man o’ war, which is not a jellyfish but a floating colony, has long tentacles that can cause a painful sting and be fatal in extremely rare cases.
Matt Slater, a marine awareness officer at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “This is an unprecedented event and we urge the public to be cautious and to keep an eye out for unusual species being stranded.
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“We may see other rare warm water species washing up.
“The stings are incredibly rare and the man o’ war is actually a beautiful life form, wonderfully adapted to life in the open ocean, and are only seen in extremely rare cases on our shores.”
Dr Peter Richardson, head of ocean recovery at the Marine Conservation Society, added: “Portuguese man o’ war are ocean-going animals, propelled by the wind on their inflatable sail as they fish the depths with their stinging tentacles.
“It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting.
“Because a stranded Portuguese man o’ war looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating.
“So, if you’re visiting west coast beaches in the next few weeks it’s well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up.
“The stings can be unbelievably painful and in rare cases, fatal.”