Jellyfish sail to shore

Simon Rockwell

Watch out this summer when walking on the beach! Across Southern California beaches, blue jellyfish have been popping up along the shore waiting to be stepped on. However, these jellyfish are special because they are not quite jellyfish, but rather Velella velella, a species commonly known as “by-the-wind sailors” because of a “sail” down their backs that catch the wind and sends them across the sea. Usually, they can be found floating in the open oceans, but recently, they have been seen all through the Southern Californian coast, having floated ashore.

When packing for upcoming beach trips, people may think to bring extra water to urinate on the stung area to ease the pain —a mere wives’ tale, which has no scientific proof that indicates it helps in any way, other than adding to the chaos. What one should consider bringing is tweezers to pluck out the fine tentacles left behind by the blue creatures. This specific organism does not have a very painful sting from its tentacles, despite its use of toxins to take down its prey.

California state parks have reported this blue “jellyfish” washing up on completely different beaches, from Crystal Cove in Newport all the way to Point Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco. While this may seem like a first-time occurrence, this is not the first time this has happened with the Velella Velella. As the waters warm and the food supply grows, the species is able to happily float along the sea, but when there are too many of them, the Velella start to get pushed onto the shore. This large number of Velella velella was last seen about five years ago in Northern and Southern California.

This summer, do not be scared of the beach and the odd blue organisms on shore. Keep handy tweezers for beach trips if one steps on the Velella velella to help pull out the visible tentacles. And remember this summer to look around for blue sea creatures on the sand when walking along the beach.