People who like to swim in rivers are not happy that an invasive stinging jellyfish has made its way to Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Called clinging jellyfish, the nasty little creatures have tiny tentacles but a big sting. It’s not life-threatening, just painful. The state Department of Environmental Protection advises people to use white vinegar to immobilize stinging cells, then bathe the area in salt water and carefully remove stingers with gloved hands.
They are native to the Pacific coast and made their way to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in the late 1800s, the DEP said. They have slowly spread from one river system to another in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The dime- to quarter-sized creatures likely hitched a ride on a boat’s hull or in its ballast, and that’s how they probably traveled from New England to New Jersey, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said.
The good news is they don’t live in ocean water, so they can’t ruin the tourist season. And so far, DEP has found very few of them in the Manasquan and Shrewsbury rivers in Monmouth County, and the Metedeconk River in northern Ocean County.
But every once in a while, a major stinging jellyfish such as a Portuguese man-of-war, with 30-foot-long tentacles, rides a current from more southern waters to the Jersey Shore. In 2015, they came ashore in Cape May Point, North Wildwood, Ocean City, Stone Harbor and several towns on Long Beach Island.
Another type of stinging jellyfish called sea nettles are found in the Barnegat Bay watershed. They are larger and have a less powerful sting, the DEP said.
Every summer, usually in August, the DEP gets calls from people saying beaches are covered with jellyfish. Those are usually just harmless salps, which don’t have stinging tentacles and look like blobs of gelatinous material, Hajna said.
The DEP warns people not to try to capture a clinging jellyfish if they see one. Take a photograph if possible and send it to Dr. Paul Bologna at firstname.lastname@example.org or Joseph Bilinski at joseph.bilinski @dep.nj.gov along with location information.