Swarm of jellyfish ends Neil Agius’s 100-mile Mallorca-Ibiza swim

Maltese Olympian has to abandon historic channel swim due to swarm of jellyfish 46km into the swim

Neil Agius was attempting a historic 100-mile crossing from Mallorca to Ibiza before he was forced to abandon the gruelling swim
Neil Agius was attempting a historic 100-mile crossing from Mallorca to Ibiza before he was forced to abandon the gruelling swim

Ultra-endurance athlete and clean seas activist Neil Agius was forced to abandon a never-before-attempted 100-mile crossing from Mallorca to Ibiza, after encountering a swarm of jellyfish.

At 3:56am on Tuesday, 27 June, Agius was forced to abandon his 100-mile swim challenge due to multiple jellyfish stings.

Agius entered the swarm 46km into the swim in the Mallorca-Ibiza channel at around 1am.

After nearly four hours, multiple stings, and several attempts to resume the swim, the stings suffered by Agius were causing too much swelling and pain and the athlete voluntarily decided that the safest thing to do, was to abandon the swim plan.

This was a world-first record attempt in the longest non-stop, unassisted, current neutral, open water sea swim.

“It is so sad to see all that hard work we put into this challenge came to such a premature conclusion. I was feeling strong and ready to go the distance but fate had other plans. This is the sport I have chosen, and that depends on so many variables – some we can be in control of, others unfortunately not. I would like to thank all of our supporters who were rooting for us and backed us up over the last 10 months.

“The real challenge for ocean conservation still stands, I will be back,” Agius said.

The fleet turned back to Mallorca to safe harbour, where a press conference will be announced.

Agius waded into the sea in Mallorca, Spain, to applause and cheers from onlookers shortly after 9am on Monday morning. The gruelling challenge was expected to take three days.

Agius had in 2021 completed a 50-hour, 124km swim from Linosa to Gozo, and was this week officially certified by the Marathon Swimming Federation.

Climate awareness swim

Agius wants his swim to raise awareness and lobby governments to sign up for and properly implement the United Nations Treaty of the High Seas. 

Adopted in New York on June 19, the treaty establishes area-based management tools for ocean preservation, including marine protected areas, to conserve and sustainably manage vital habitats and species. According to the UN, currently, only about one per cent of the high seas are protected.

The adopted agreement will be open for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York for two years from 20 September 2023, the day after the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Summit. It will enter into force after ratification by sixty States.

In recent weeks Agius has been working closely with a leading advocate for the treaty, UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer himself.  

Agius has also met and collaborated with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola as he lobbies governments and officials to ratify and begin implementing the UN’s new rules.  

Agius is also working with NGO Wave of Change Malta in a bid to raise awareness at the community level and encourage people to embrace change.

The campaign is split across three pillars, urging society to live, dress and eat for change: encouraging sustainable domestic lifestyle choices, including energy efficiency and smarter household water management; employing sustainable fashion choices such as clothing swaps, and prioritising sustainable textiles; and prioritising eating local, seasonal, and limiting red meat. 

Agius is supported by a team of around 25 volunteers and professionals made up of medics, swim observers, navigators, skippers and crew, motivators, media, and a nutritionist, who will ensure that he remains safe and healthy throughout the swim.