In recent weeks, millions of small, jellyfish-like sea creatures, also scientifically known as “velella velella,” are getting blown onto beaches, from California to Washington. This jellyfish epidemic started about four to six weeks ago, way back in March, when jellyfish were found washing up on Oregon and Washington beaches. The latest sighting was actually just about a week or so ago at Ocean Shores, Washington, where swarms of the purple-colored, oval-shaped sea creatures washed along the shore, dying in astonishingly horrific numbers. This has been the biggest incursion we have ever seen here on the west coast. Some even say billions have washed along the shores of the west coast.
Rus Higley, an environmental studies professor at the UWT, says that he “went to the beach a month ago and saw hundreds down at the shore.” He says this is a common occurrence that happens every year. These jellyfish drift along regularly on the surface of the ocean, riding along the wind and water currents in search of food. They get pushed along the water whenever the direction of the wind changes, Higley adds, due to their triangular “sail.” If the wind is strong enough, the jellyfish get pushed towards the shore to their certain death. Ever since March, surface wind blowing from west to east over the northeast Pacific toward coastal Washington and northwest Oregon has been stronger than average. Not only that, but the ocean’s surface temperature has risen drastically in recent years too. But can this really be a result of strong winds and above-average sea surface temperatures? Several biologists believe these changes could be a result of climate change, but Higley says that “there’s not enough evidence that this is related to climate change; we can only speculate.”
It’s predicted that this will continue along the West Coast beaches throughout the summer months, which won’t be fun for beach-lovers who want a good swim. According to Higley, this is a natural cycle for these jellyfish. There is no point in trying to rescue them because by the time you see them on the beach they are already dead. But if you do happen to see any jellyfish the next time you go to the beach, you can always go check them out. Although, by the time you do you will only see their triangular shells, they are beautiful creatures worth seeing.