Potentially painful clinging jellyfish return to NJ shores
The tiny jellyfish with the violent sting, the clinging jellyfish, has returned to New Jersey farther south than ever.
Clinging jellies are a non-native species from the Pacific Ocean that first appeared in Brick in 2016, according to Paul Bologna, director of the Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences Program at Montclair State University.
The quarter-size species with 60 to 90 tentacles that contain stinging cells show up in back bays anywhere from Shrewsbury to Cape May but have become more common at southern beaches. They made their first appearance of the year in the northern part of Barnegat Bay right on schedule.
"A few were good size, a lot of them were relatively small. So I think we're at sort of the starting point of what we normally see this time of year," Bologna said. "They get kind of ramped up at this point in June, it's kind of a major timeframe where they're relatively abundant and where swimmers and people using the water need to be most careful."
Tour operator Travis Davis of Salt Marsh Safari found one when he put a net in the water during a tour off North Wildwood, the fartherst south in New Jersey where they've been reported.
Paralysis and pain
The danger of the clinging jellyfish's sting is their toxins that can cause paralysis. The pain their sting causes is also not felt for another couple of hours.
"If you've been stung by a bee or a wasp or a jelly, usually you get a lot of pain and then it kind of subside. These guys, you tend to get stung, and then it's three, four or five hours later that the pain really starts to kick in as the paralysis and toxins work through your system," Bologna said.
The sting causes pain and muscles to tense up "like a giant Charlie horse and creates incredible pain," Bologna said, adding it's different than a regular jellyfish sting.
If you do get stung by a clinging jellyfish what should you do? Prescription painkillers will help.
"A lot of times they provide pain painkillers in order for you to kind of work through as the toxin kind of get through your system. It often times a couple of days to kind of work through. So people are a lot of pain. So normally, it's a short-term prescription for various painkillers," Bologna said.
You can protect yourself against them by wearing a wet suit or waders. Or wait until after the Fourth of July when water temperatures are warm and the clinging jellyfish start to leave, Bologna said.
Keeping track of clinging jellyfish
Bologna said sightings of clinging jellyfish can be reported to the New Jersey Jelly Spotters Facebook page. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also keeps track of them.
"They've got a website that they update on the clinging jellies, where they've been located. When they do their sampling, they upload those. When we are doing our sampling we go ahead and give them an update. And when the public finds them and sees them, we add those in as well," Bologna said.