Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Warm Winter Weather Washes Up Jellyfish Concerns; Hordes of the Blob-Like Masses Wash Ashore during This Time of Year, Officials Say

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Warm Winter Weather Washes Up Jellyfish Concerns; Hordes of the Blob-Like Masses Wash Ashore during This Time of Year, Officials Say

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

There's been more talk than usual in recent weeks about dead jellyfish on the beach, from Atlantic Beach south through St. Johns County.

And rows and clusters of big, round cannonball jellyfish are visible along nearly every stretch of beach.

But marine and beach officials said it's not the number of jellyfish that's increased this year - it's the number of people talking about them.

Because of unseasonably warm weather, more people have been on the beach through the winter months, when jellyfish typically wash ashore.

Most of the jellyfish seen recently are the bulbous cannonball variety. Fortunately, they're relatively harmless compared to the stinging Portuguese man-o-war species.

Maia McGuire, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sea grant extension agent, said that while people might think they're seeing more cannonball jellyfish, this is the time of year when they typically wash up.

The blob-like cannonballs have mushroom shapes with brownish caps. They are hard and slimy and lose their color after they've been washed up for awhile. The man-o-wars are blue or purplish, have long tentacles and resemble a plastic bag that's been blown up.

McGuire said cold winter water temperatures combined with the life cycle of jellyfish cause them to die and wash up on shore. The jellyfish that do wash up are large, about 8 inches in diameter. Their size shows they are adults, McGuire said.

"It's a winter phenomenon," McGuire said. She said that it's more unusual to have large numbers of people at the beach at this time of year, mainly due to above-normal temperatures through January.

Lifeguard Robert Miller, a lieutenant with Jacksonville Beach Search and Rescue, said he's noticed more dead jellyfish washed up this year than in years past.

"Honestly, I've seen more dead ones this year," Miller said.

Miller said the abundance hasn't kept beachgoers away; it's sparked some curiosity.

An Internet Web site called Jacksonville Shells says, "Cannonball is by far the most common jellyfish found on Northeast Florida beaches. …

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