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Is there an official jellyfish season for our coastal areas?

Gareth McGrath

Different species of jellyfish are found in our waters year-round.

But it’s during the warm summer months, when more of us are in the water, that most people start seeing, thinking and occasionally getting stung by jellyfish.

That also corresponds to when some of the jellyfish species that pack the nastiest sting ride the warm waters and currents of the Gulf Stream to our shores, said Hap Fatzinger, curator at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

The lists includes the Portugeese Man of War and sea nettles.

And if you’re stung?

Don’t urinate on the wound. That’s an old wive’s tale.

Instead, for a jellyfish sting, New Hanover Regional Medical Services/VitaLine’s guidelines recommend: (1st) rinse the area with well with sea water. (2nd) use the edge of a credit card and gently scrape any remaining tentacles off the skin. (3rd) combine 1 cup of baking soda and 1 gallon of fresh water in a bucket and rinse the affected area for 20-30 minutes.

Vinegar also works to knock back the toxin.

But Fatzinger said not to use fresh water on its own, ice or hot water, since that will cause the nematocysts to continue to release their toxin.

Since jellyfish ride the currents and waves for most of their propulsion, they can be found in great numbers if a “bloom” gets caught up and brought to shore.

And reports of seas full of jellyfish are increasing.

So far this year, blooms of jellyfish have been reported in the Far East, Australia and parts of Europe.

Researchers believe pollution from agricultural runoff, possibly fueled by global warming, is one of the causes of the increase in jellyfish numbers, since the small organism that the jellyfish feed on thrive in nutrient-rich waters.

Overfishing also has contributed to the surge in jellyfish numbers, by wiping out potential competitors.

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2 Responses to “ Is there an official jellyfish season for our coastal areas?”

  1. On August 9, 2009 at 6:58 am terry wrote:

    One quick note:
    You state to mix baking soda and fresh water to rinse the wound after the tentacles are removed. Later you say not to use fresh water. I believe you meant for the initial rinse, but that isn’t clear.

    FROM THE EDITOR: Yes, only use the fresh water when mixed with baking soda. Do no use fresh water on its own.

  2. On August 12, 2009 at 7:49 am justin wrote:

    In the Tuesday, Aug. 11 edition of the Star-News, you printed a “file photo” of a Portuguese Man ‘o War to illustrate a story about jelly fish migrations along our southern shores.

    For the record, a Man o’ War is NOT a jellyfish – they are actually classified as siphonophores, small colonies of multiple organisms. A jelly is an individual creature.

    The bright, pink softball-sized jellyfish (stomolophus meleagris) found along the beaches of North and South Carolina are commonly called “cabbage jellies” or “cannonballs” . They possess a very mild sting that can barely be felt by humans. Cannonballs are the favorite food of mola molas -the giant ocean sun fishes- and the enormous creatures follow the jellyfish migration patterns year round, explaining why molas are regularly found washed up on North Carolina beaches – victims of boat strikes and fishing nets.


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