Toxic jellyfish now found further south in Barnegat Bay

A clinging jellyfish that was found in an Ocean County river. (Image courtesy of Dr. Paul Bologna)

A clinging jellyfish that was found in an Ocean County river. (Image courtesy of Dr. Paul Bologna)

An expert says dangerous clinging jellyfish have been found for the first time south of a popular Barnegat Bay boating area off southern Island Beach State Park.

Montclair State University’s Dr. Paul Bologna announced the finding Sunday of the dime-sized jellyfish that deliver a nasty sting.

“While it was very small, we are now expecting them to start showing up in the region. Please be careful while enjoying the bay in this region,” he said.

The clinging jellyfish sample was collected just south of Tices Shoal. In 2018, numerous clinging jellyfish were collected north of the area off Island Beach State Park.

Clinging jellyfish were first found in New Jersey in 2016 when a fisherman collected one near the Point Pleasant Canal in Ocean County. In recent years they have been found in parts of the northern and central Barnegat Bay in Ocean County along with the Metedeconk and Shrewsbury rivers in Monmouth County.

In addition to off Island Beach State Park, confirmed sightings in 2019 include along the eastern portion of the Metedeconk River near the Barnegat Bay and a salt pond off North Wildwood, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Along the Eastern seaboard, they were first found in coastal Massachusetts in the early 20th century. They are known to spread by ships.

Oceanus Magazine describes the species as resembling “a piece of art glass or a flash bling brooch you would never want to wear” with “hula-hoop skirts of 60 to 90 glass-like tentacles that uncoil sharp threads and emit painful neurotoxin.”

A state news release advises that clinging jellyfish are not known to inhabit ocean beaches or other sandy areas. Rather, they tend to attach themselves to “submerged aquatic vegetation and algae in back bays and estuaries — areas not heavily used for swimming,” according to the release.

Officials say anyone stung by the jellyfish — which can produce severe pain, muscle cramping, and other localized symptoms — should immediately treat the impacted area:

  • 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 instead of subsiding, seek prompt medical attention.

If you see a clinging jellyfish, experts say to not attempt a capture. Instead, take a photograph, if possible, and send it to Dr. Paul Bologna (bolognap@mail.montclair.edu) or Joseph Bilinski (joseph.bilinski@dep.nj.gov) along with the location.

Anyone who spots these jellyfish or anything unusual can also post to the New Jersey Jellyspotters Facebook group. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection manages an interactive map of confirmed sightings.

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