Stinging, painful jellyfish in our waters — this week, NJ hopes to find them
BARNEGAT — Research into the extent of the presence of clinging jellyfish in New Jersey continues this week with the "Jersey Jellyfish Jam."
New Jersey is one of the newest homes for the clinging jellyfish, a species native to the Pacific Ocean. The transparent, tiny jellyfish — about the size of a dime or nickel — have been in the U.S since the late 1800s, but weren't spotted in Garden State waters until 2016 when they were discovered in the Manasquan and Shrewsbury rivers.
Once stung, a person's symptoms can become severe after 20 to 30 minutes. The sting typically causes extreme pain, but is not fatal. For some people, hospitalization is required for days because the pain and cramping is so intense.
In 2018, the invasive species was spotted in northern and central Barnegat Bay.
Paul Bologna, an associate professor for Biology and Molecular Biology at Montclair State University, is leading the project and discovered 294 clinging jellyfish at the base of the Metedeconk River where it enters the Barnegat Bay last Thursday.
The "Jersey Jellyfish Jam" will bring together several groups on Wednesday and Thursday including the state Department of Environmental Protection, Save Barnegat Bay, Reclaim the Bay, representatives for Island Beach State Park and Ocean County Parks to search for more in areas that have not been covered.
"They're going to be bringing boats and cover as much of Barnegat Bay as we can. We know we have them from the Tices Shoal to the Metedeconk. In between those areas we really haven't sampled because they occurred so late. Our focus hasn't really gone into places like Seaside or Kettle Creek or some of the other places that people may be using," Bologna said.
The goal of the research is to help the DEP update its mapping before the Memorial Day weekend.
Bologna said the creatures found last week were very small. Jellyfish of such size may not easily be found because it could be another two weeks before they reach full adult size. The cold water could be affecting their growth, according to Bologna, who said when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees they begin to grow faster.
The clinging jellyfish usually attach themselves to submerged aquatic vegetation and algae in back bays and estuaries and are not commonly found on the beach.
The DEP suggested anyone wading through marshy areas should wear boots or waders to protect themselves.
If stung by a clinging jellyfish, the DEP recommends:
- Apply white vinegar to the affected area to immobilize any remaining stinging cells.
- Rinse the area with salt water and remove any remaining tentacle materials using gloves or a thick towel. A hot compress or cold pack can then be applied to alleviate pain.
- If symptoms persist or pain increases, seek prompt medical attention
Anyone spotting the clinging jellyfish can report them to the New Jersey Jellyspotters Facebook page.
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