Colorful, but potentially harmful, Portuguese man-of-war have been washing up on some New Jersey beaches in the past few weeks. A Stockton University professor says they might be around for a while.
Matt Landau, a professor of marine science at Stockton, said summer usually brings an increase in the Portuguese man-of-war population along the Jersey Shore.
“I don’t think this summer is anything exceptional. They are more common down South,” Landau said “As the temperatures heat up, the Gulf Stream comes closer to shore and Portuguese man-of-war, being floating animals, are floating in the Gulf Stream, and they just get pushed closer to shore.”
The man-of-war peak in mid- to late summer, and then the Gulf Stream drifts away from the coast taking them out to sea.
If you see one, don’t get too close.
Even a dead Portuguese man-of-war on the beach can hurt you, Landau said.
“If you come in contact with a tentacle, even a detached tentacle, those stinging cells are going to fire,” he said. “So, yeah, if the animal is recently washed up, and all the tissues are still fresh, you can get stung.”
And that can be a real problem, Landau said.
“Best-case scenario, there’s kind of a searing, stinging pain, and then it can progress on,” he said. “You can get some muscle stiffness, muscle aches, [gastrointestinal] distress, confusion … a possibility if you get enough of these things in, you to go into shock.”
Landau does not expect the man-of-war will deter many people from heading to the Shore. When a great many of the creatures are spotted in the water, he said, signs are put up to warn beach-goers.