WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - While finding washed up jellyfish are a pretty common part of visiting the beach, sightings of Portuguese Man o’ Wars, a creature known for its painful sting, are being reported at beaches up and down the coast.
Viewers in Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach have submitted photos of the sea creatures and Surf City leaders sent a warning out Friday.
Whether they’re alive in the water or washed up in the sand, they can sting you.
If you’re stung, you’ll need to get medical attention. Experts warn not to apply vinegar, vodka or urine to the sting, and to gently remove the tentacles with a credit card. The sting is described as incredibly painful, but its not a life-threatening injury.
Rob Condon has a PHD in marine science has studied drivers of jellyfish populations for the past 20 years and says the recent weather systems are what brought them to our local beaches. The creatures drift around in the ocean and if they get caught in a current or a breeze, they get blown ashore.
Scientists say the increase in sightings are a great opportunity for kids and families to learn about nature.
“I’d caution the public not to touch the animal… we’re interacting with their habitat. If you’re in the water swimming and you have goggles and a snorkel, keep a distance… observe them. They’re beautiful animals. Sometimes you see little animals and little fish and crabs swimming around them, its like a micro habitat in itself," said Rob Condon, founder and executive director of Young Scientist Academy.
Jellyfish of all kinds are important to the environment and serve as a food source for large fish and sea turtles.
If you happen to see a jellyfish or a man o’ war at the beach, you can actually help scientists studying marine life. If you visit JellyWatch.Org you can share your photos and findings with researchers on their website or by downloading the JellyWatch app. Check their Regional Information Pages to identify the type of wildlife you’re seeing.
Condon says jellyfish populations rise and fall over a 20 year period and right now, we’re in a rising phase.
“We might see a few more of these appearing over the next ten years,” added Condon.