Assateague Island National Seashore is reporting “a lot of weird little blobs of clear jelly washing up on the beach this week; we’re talking THOUSANDS of these things.” writes AINS’s Barry Johnson They look like small jellyfish, but they’re not and don’t sting.
These are “salps”. They pull water through a tube in their center and filter out microscopic plankton for food. Salps squirt out the filtered water, propelling themselves through the ocean. Officials suspect there was a plankton bloom in the area, causing the salp to get excited and over produce. But they’re dying out as the available plankton is eaten up.
According to some rumors along the beach, these are bluefish eggs. But scientists say those are much bigger (about one inch long) and round — salp are barrel shaped. Also, bluefish eggs have black dots in them (developing embryo).
The next question is: what about jelly fish? East Coast sea nettle is a type of jelly fish found in the Chesapeake Bay. Not all jelly fish sting, but the sea nettle does. You want to watch out for it in mid-to-late summer. Right about now, actually.
Sea nettles live in the Chesapeake Bay year round, but they’re in a different shape during winter, spring and early summer and you don’t recognize them or can’t see them. In late summer through early fall, they’ve gotten their bell-shaped top and hair-like tentacles. That’s when they move into the main Bay waters to reproduce. The Bay Journal explains sea nettles it in more detail.
When walking down any beach this time of year, the question is — “Are the jelly fish here yet?” The Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System (CBOFS) checks daily to see where they are likely to be. However, it’s not always working. But NOAA created this map to show where they might summer.
Despite all the hassle, we do kinda want them around. Our Chesapeake Bay sea nettles eat comb jellies. Comb jellies eat fish and oyster larvae. So if we want our summer rockfish and winter oysters, we need to put up with our sea nettles.