Early warning systems to minimize the risk of box jellyfish stings by
empowering stakeholders

Led by: Dr Scott Condie, CSIRO


Project Summary

This project will minimise the risk of box jellyfish stings by empowering stakeholders with an early warning system. The project will first develop an openly-accessible database based on information from existing sting datasets, hospital records, and surf lifesaving and research data. The project will use this database to develop real-time forecasting models in major stinger hotspots on the GBR, based on environmental conditions and water quality. These forecasts will be tested with the project partners, SLSQ and AMPTO. This project will empower tourism operators, Traditional Owners and the public to mitigate stinger impacts.

Problem Statements


The problem – Irukandji and stingers are episodically common throughout the GBR, posing a threat to multiple stakeholder groups through serious injury and even death. Venomous jellyfish cause hundreds of hospitalisations annually. The financial impact on tourism can be enormous – the cost of cancelled tourism bookings following two fatalities on the GBR in 2002 was >$65M – and the tourism industry reports that Irukandji are the #2 reason Australians are taking their tourism dollars overseas. Stakeholders need accurate and rapid information on the presence of venomous jellyfish to develop their own mitigation strategies, such as changing the location of activities, varying the timing of immersion while diving or swimming, or wearing preventative garments (e.g. stinger suits).

How Research Addresses Problem

The solution – The project will provide a sophisticated prediction system that forecasts the likelihood of venomous jellyfish that would allow stakeholders to implement precautions, similar in principle to warnings and mitigative actions for other environmental hazards such as fire, cyclones and floods. This will be achieved through: (i) the creation of a database that collates all available information on box jelly occurrence, abundance and location and frequency of stings; (ii) the use of quick ID cameras by surf life savers for high quality images that can be quickly sent to an expert using the telephone 4G network (or Wi-Fi), so minimising false alerts to swimmers and other users; (iii) the development of forecast models for the risk of Irukandji and stinger events, based on the published CSIRO model for key locations for our stakeholders (tourist operators, Indigenous Australians and SLSQ); (vi) refine the model by testing predictions with data, as well as information on the effect of water quality on jellyfish survival.

Alignment with NESP Research Priorities

Impact of water quality and climate factors on economically relevant Reef Species.

Early warning and detection systems for forecasting jellyfish/Irukandji occurrences.

Understanding the influence of water quality and associate factors on jellyfish/Irukandji occurrences.

Project Keywords

Water quality; Modelling; Forecasting; Stakeholders; Jellyfish.

Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through SLSQ, CSIRO, AMPTO, JCU, GU, Yirrganydji and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

Project Publications






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