Skip to content

Jellyfish incident

A member has reported an incident that occurred during surface diving operations offshore of Western Australia, whereby a diver was apparently stung by a Carukia barnesi jellyfish, which led the diver to develop Irukandji syndrome.

The incident was attributed to the following basic causes;

  • the diver was stung and evenomated by Irukandji jellyfish;
  • loose overalls had allowed jellyfish to enter at the back of the neck during surface swimming – the Irukandji jellyfish is typically between 1-2.5cm across the body and is therefore able to enter through small areas.

The company involved has recommended the following actions for the geographical area concerned:

  • use of correct PPE for surface swimming, air diving and saturation diving;
  • stinger suits to be worn under all coveralls whilst diving unless wearing a wetsuit;
  • diving hoods to be used at all times whilst surface swimming.

For those members who are not familiar with the syndrome, the following provides a brief description:

The Irukandji syndrome is a group of delayed (between 10 and 40 minutes) severe systemic symptoms occurring after an initial mild skin sting by small carybdeid (box) jellyfish including Carukia barnesi, known colloquially as the ‘Irukandji’. The syndrome is well known in tropical Australian waters. About 5-45 (usually 30) minutes after being stung, the person starts to develop ‘Irukandji syndrome’ – a set of symptoms that often include severe lower back pain, muscle cramps, vomiting, restlessness and anxiety. In rare cases, the victim can suffer pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs), hypertension or toxic heart failure that could be fatal if not treated.

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.