The presence of more than 100 small, toxic jellyfish, called “clinging jellyfish,” was confirmed in a North Wildwood beach salt pond, the farthest south in New Jersey the harmful species has been found.
A young girl spotted the non-native, nearly invisible sea creature in a pond near the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and adjacent to East First Avenue, the state Department of Environmental Protection said. She was not injured.
The girl’s parents identified it as a clinging jellyfish and contacted Montclair State University biology professor Dr. Paul Bologna, who visited the pond and pulled about 150 specimens from the water, the DEP said.
The state agency said it’s unclear how the jellyfish entered the pond but said it is fed by a stormwater pipe from adjacent roads and may have direct connections with Hereford Inlet intermittently.
The City of North Wildwood said the tidal pool where the jellyfish were discovered has never been open for swimming. Officials advised people to pay attention to warning signs posted by the pond and not enter the water there.
The hard-to-spot jellyfish, which have red, orange or violet crosses across their center, attach to underwater vegetation and algae in back bays and estuaries when not actively feeding on zooplankton. They were first spotted in New Jersey waters in 2016 and have hospitalized dozens of swimmers since then.
“Although the toxicity of the clinging jellyfish sting can be potent and produce pain and other localized symptoms, it is important to note that no fatalities have ever been documented for this species,” Mayor Patrick Rosenello said in a statement.
The dangerous jellyfish can be as small as a dime and as large as a quarter in size, officials said. Each has 60 to 90 tentacles that contain stinging cells that can deliver severe pain and may result in the need for hospitalization.
Montclair State University and the DEP are working together to monitor clinging jellyfish in the North Wildwood pond and others.