The Spanish environmental ministry is braced for a summer season plagued by jellyfish and plans patrols to scour the seas and remove the offending creatures before they reach the shores.

Josep María Gili, a professor at the Spanish High Council for Scientific Research, told La Vanguardia newspaper that the council planned a survey of the jellyfish population - and its growth potential - from the Costa Brava to Cádiz.

"From an environmental point of view, leaving them in the water isn't a bad solution, because they would be food for other animals, but for the population in general, and bathers in particular, they pose a health problem," Mr Gili said. He advised sifting for toxic tentacles in the sand.

Like other Mediterranean countries, Spain is expecting an onslaught partly because of over-fishing of natural predators, such as red tuna. Scarce rainfall has also meant less cool river water flowing into the sea. The fresh water traditionally kept the jellyfish about 20 miles from shore, ecologists say.

Last summer 400 bathers were treated in one single day in August for stings at a beach in Benalmadena, Malaga.