Red jellyfish innundate northern neighbor; few seen on Peninsula shores [**Corrected**]
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — The red “Lion's Mane” jellyfish that inundated Vancouver Island beaches this month have largely kept their distance from the North Olympic Peninsula, scientists say.
After a spike in jellyfish strandings earlier this month, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, B.C., warned people to avoid the creatures because of a painful, bee-like sting.
The Lion's Mane, or Cyanea capillata, can sting even after it dies.
“I haven't heard of any equivalent mass jellyfish strandings down here,” said Ed Bowlby, research coordinator for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Port Angeles, “though we do see some of those species periodically.”
Claudia Mills, an independent research scientist with the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories who specializes in jellyfishes, could not explain why the Cyanea seem to be targeting Canada.
“Although I'm sure that the water coming in and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca has a distinct flow pattern that could include jellyfish at the ocean surface off Neah Bay coming in first on the Canadian side,” she added.
The Lion's Mane was featured in a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a giant man-killing jellyfish.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium said the species is the largest jellyfish in the world, with one measuring 120 feet in length, making it longer than a blue whale.
Mills said she doubts the often-repeated statements about the Cyanea being the largest jellyfish.
“[I] have been unable to follow it up to the origin of that statement.” she said.
“It has been repeated for decades, and I wonder if anyone knows where it came from.”
Although the Lion's Mane is native to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, the jellyfish are much more abundant in the surface layers of the coastal Pacific Ocean.
An intrusion of oceanic water in September 2002 resulted in a mass stranding of Lion's Mane jellyfish in the San Juan Islands, which Mills documented in a story contributed to the Journal of the San Juan Islands.
“This species is rarely dangerous, but it is a bothersome pest for fishermen from Washington to Alaska,” Mills wrote.
“When nets and lines are hauled in, pieces of jellyfish get caught in the tackle block, the flying bits forming a stinging red rain.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 23. 2013 11:24AM