Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jellyfish in the Sound: They Are Out of Control and Won't Go Away

This is a banner summer in Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay for gelatinous zooplankton, better known as jellyfish and ctenaphores.

John Ryan, chief lifeguard for the Town of East Hampton, said "it's pretty bad on the bay side, especially for this time of year. They've been here for the past month. We give swim lessons and the instructors are all getting stung." ...

Vinny Guido, 18, of Rocky Point, who has been a lifeguard for three years at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, said "they are out of control and won't go away." [editor's question: There's really a lifeguard on Long Island named "Vinny Guido"? You're not making that up?]

He estimates about 30 people a day are treated for stings, up from none to one or two a day at this time last year. People who have a strong allergic reaction may be paralyzed or die.

Larry Penny, East Hampton Town natural resources director, said "this is the worst we've seen it in 10 or 15 years in the Peconic Bay Estuary. Mostly they're lion's mane jellyfish."

George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for Long Island state parks, said there had been an unusual concentration of jellyfish over the weekend and through Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island Sound and a number of people were stung. "Usually we see them at the end of August or September when the water temperature is higher."

All this is from a Newsday story, here, which also quotes a University of Rhode Island scientist saying what scientists always say (probably because it's true and they are cautious by training): we don't know what's causing it. It could be warmer waters caused by global warming; it could be because larger predators have been overfished; it could be because of pollution; it could be because of shifts in weather patterns. It could easily be all those things combined. Again, from Newsday:

Hofstra adjunct assistant biology professor Nicolai Konow said "I would presume it has to do with human intervention and ecosystem imbalance. It could be nutrient runoff and it could be a direct result of imbalance in the food chain due to overfishing of the natural predators of the jellyfish."

"We've seen this before," Klos said, "and I'm sure we'll see it again."

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Blogger Nan Patience said...

We went clamming off a friend's boat in the Peconic Bay last week, and at one point, as the kids were heading back for the boat, they both started screaming as if they were being eaten alive. It was jellyfish. Slimy, stinging strings wrapped around little legs. Those things really can spoil all the fun.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer the editor's question, yes, Vinny Guido is an actual lifeguard. I worked with him a few years ago and we all had the same reaction when we saw his name on the roster.

12:48 AM  

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