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Moon jellies washing up along Central Coast shoreline

California State Parks
This alien-looking creature is named for its translucent, moonlike bell. Instead of long trailing tentacles, the moon jelly has short tentacles that sweep food toward the mucous layer on the edge of the bell.

Small, translucent blobs are washing up along the Pismo Beach shoreline, and they may start showing up along the coast up to Monterey soon.

The clear, dinner-plate sized drifters of the sea — moon jellies — have arrived along the coastline. Wyatt Patry, Senior Aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said this happens every year, but usually around June. So this year, the swarm of moon jellies are a bit late.

“That’s probably because of La Niña," Patry said. "La Niña has cooled the water, so things have been happening a little slower.”

Patry said beachgoers will probably see them for only the next couple of weeks, as the currents and winds shift their path.

If you come across one accidentally in the water, Patry said the moon jellies don’t pack much of a sting like other jellyfish. 

“They might irritate the underside of your arm, but that's about it," Patry said. " Some of the more sensitive skin spots on the body, they could irritate.”

As for curious beachgoers who come across one on the shoreline, Patry encourages people not to pick them up. 

“Some people are very sensitive to stings, especially the people who are sensitive to bee stings," Patry said. "That’s kind of where I wouldn’t let my kids do that, kind of a thing.”

Patry said the ones washed up along the shoreline aren’t necessarily dead, and if the tide takes them back out to sea, they can continue drifting along. 

“They don’t have diagnostics like we have," Patry said. "We can declare a human dead at a certain point, but with a jelly? There is just no diagnostic to be like, ‘Oh yea, this jelly is dead.’”

If you do happen to feel the sting, Patry said use fresh water to wash it off, or a topical pain relief. He said the idea of urinating on a jellyfish sting? Doesn’t work — at all. 

“People just want to make fun of somebody, so they tell you to pee on yourself," Patry said. "I think that’s just where that comes from. It doesn’t do anything for you.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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