Blue Dragons at Maroubra Beach: Emerging Threat Brings Worse Pain than Bluebottle

An unprecedented number of sea slugs called blue dragons have been seen in Maroubra Beach and other beaches in NSW, posing a dangerous threat for swimmers.

While blue dragons have been reported before, specifically in 2018 and 2021, the numbers that have recently washed up at Maroubra beach, as well as Bondi beach, were higher than ever in late January 2023. 

Compared to bluebottles, blue dragons have a more potent sting that isn’t life-threatening or venomous but could deliver the most excruciating pain, according to marine biologist Julian Obayd. He has been sharing information about blue dragons and other unique sea creatures on his TikTok account. 

@julianobayd Replying to @J̷o̷e̷l̷ 🎶 (PART 1) Forgot i did this informative video on Blue Dragons with help from @The Dodo thank you Carolina if you’re reading this 🙂 🐉 #venomous #dangerous #bluedragon #beach #beachvibes #alien #rescue #manowar #fish ♬ original sound – Dragon Hunter

If stung by this sea creature, the experts advise rinsing the area with seawater and never freshwater. It’s also best to avoid rubbing the area and instead soak the sting in comfortable hot water for at least 20 minutes. 

The heat should help with pain relief but if hot water is not available, ice packs may be applied to the area as well. If pain persists, medical assistance must be done as soon as possible. 

Blue dragons usually appear in late summer but with the water temperature rising, its numbers have been inevitably increasing. 

Professor David Schoeman of the University of the Sunshine Coast believes that more unusual occurrences will happen in marine life as the heatwave continues. The waters in Bondi or Maroubra beach will not only get warmer but such a temperature will be longer in duration by 2050. 

Published 9 March 2023

Bluebottle Alert at Maroubra Beaches: What To Do If Stung?

An alert has been raised across Sydney’s beaches, including Maroubra, as droves of bluebottle jellyfish have been washing up in the coastline. Whilst the onslaught is expected to ease off right before autumn, experts have warned that thousands of these stingers could still return.

Randwick City Councillor Dylan Parker shared a photo of the situation at a Maroubra SLSC tent as dozens of swimmers reported their brush with bluebottle clumps in the water. 

Photo Credit: Dylan Parker/Facebook

The lifesavers usually rub ice on the victims’ skin to reduce the stinging sensation. However, Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory recommends rinsing and neutralising the affected area with seawater first before reaching out for a bottle of cold water or ice. It’s the same recommendation from the Australia Resuscitation Council.  

Apparently, applying freshwater first could worsen the sting but seawater will stop the stinger from pumping more venom. Apart from ice, hot water is also good for numbing the pain after neutralisation.

Because bluebottles are sea drifters, their movement is directed by north-easterly winds and not by the season. When onshore winds are strong, bluebottles will likely come ashore, as recently seen in Sydney’s beaches.

Swimmers and beachgoers in Maroubra are advised to watch out for signs and warnings from the lifeguards or download the Jellyfish App for alerts and tips.