Jellyfish the size of dinner plates are welcoming visitors to Northeast beaches this Fourth of July weekend

A rise in lion's mane jellyfish off the coast of New England led to a painful encounter for a 4-year-old Massachusetts boy. WHDH has more.

Posted: Jul 3, 2020 10:30 PM


Some beaches in the northeastern United States are dealing with more than the threat of COVID-19 this holiday weekend. They have to contend with an unwelcome visitor: the Lion's Mane jellyfish.

The fish, which can reach sizes of four feet in diameter with tentacles over a hundred feet long, have been spotted from Maine to Massachusetts.

"The ones that we're seeing here are probably not much bigger than maybe dinner plate, " says Steve Spina, Assistant Curator of Fishes at the New England Aquarium. "Which is big enough."

Because of their size, Lion's Mane jellyfish are particularly dangerous to swimmers. Their long tentacles can sting a person whose guard is down because the fish looks like it's feet away.

Check what the weather looks like for your Fourth of July weekend

Officials in the area are warning residents and visitors to be on the lookout and to stay safe.

Beaches are flying purple flags to indicate "the presence of dangerous marine animals," said the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in a tweet.

Hingham and Scituate beaches, both popular with tourists for the Fourth of July weekend, both put out public health statements advising caution when swimming in areas where the fish may be.

"The abundance of them this year is what's unusual. There's an awful lot," says Spina.

The jellyfish frequently appear in deep water in the North Atlantic in late spring and early summer. But this year, they're washing up on shore later-and in more significant numbers- than before.

The growth and development of the fish are triggered by temperature and seasonal changes in ocean water, which may explain why these jellies are showing up in new places.

At the "polyp" stage of a Lion's Mane's life cycle, the animal may "strobilate", or spawn, more jellyfish than is usual if temperatures are unstable, says Amy Arnold, Senior Aquarist in Acquisitions and Quarantine at the Georgia Aquarium.

"This could then cause a larger number of jellies seen than usual, and later in the season, then we are accustomed," she says.

In a year that has seen hundred-degree temperatures in Siberia, Lion's Mane jellyfish may be the latest sign of a warming planet.

"The short answer to all of this: global warming," says Arnold. "A one-degree temperature difference in the ocean can affect all of this."

However, it can be difficult to point to a clear explanation for year-to-year fluctuations. Jellyfish populations, says Spina, are "very unpredictable."

"It's tempting to blame a warming climate and warming waters, but it's hard to really make that statement without having a lot of good data to back it up," he says. "You really need some numbers and some time to sort of start drawing conclusions."

This is what beachgoers should do to stay safe

Lion's Mane jellyfish grow biggest in ice-cold water, so it's unlikely that people will see record-breaking fish over their holiday weekend. However, the tentacles require caution as they can float yards away from the fish, carried by the current, and still sting.

"It is also important to remember," says Arnold, "that if you see them washed up onshore and out of the water, they still have the ability to sting." This is particularly important to keep in mind in order to keep dogs and children safe.

While serious stings have been reported this year, none have required medical attention and the Lion's Mane sting is rarely fatal. Beachgoers are advised to stay out of the water where the fish have been spotted and to treat stings with sting kits.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 84°
Florence
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 82°
Fayetteville
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 87°
Scottsboro
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 78°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 101496

Reported Deaths: 1821
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13578262
Mobile10747221
Montgomery6999153
Madison555035
Tuscaloosa435080
Unassigned406169
Baldwin374429
Shelby338137
Marshall320738
Lee273647
Morgan244320
Etowah220934
DeKalb186614
Calhoun185319
Elmore178339
Walker156265
Houston145913
Limestone139313
Russell13912
St. Clair138120
Dallas134825
Franklin131022
Cullman124612
Colbert123218
Lauderdale121320
Autauga119622
Escambia109417
Talladega108714
Jackson10794
Tallapoosa87879
Dale85629
Chambers84838
Blount8355
Chilton8309
Clarke82710
Coffee7816
Butler77536
Covington75521
Pike7167
Marion59226
Barbour5866
Lowndes57524
Marengo57217
Bullock49311
Hale48726
Bibb4575
Winston45611
Washington45313
Perry4484
Wilcox44510
Monroe4256
Pickens41310
Randolph40411
Conecuh39710
Sumter37019
Lawrence3603
Macon34414
Crenshaw3338
Choctaw29012
Cherokee2888
Clay2785
Geneva2692
Henry2683
Greene25511
Lamar2372
Fayette2275
Cleburne1301
Coosa1063
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128511

Reported Deaths: 1313
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby23943319
Davidson21280221
Rutherford683455
Hamilton654756
Knox494641
Williamson370225
Sumner353873
Unassigned31513
Out of TN302419
Wilson241123
Bradley206615
Montgomery204115
Sevier19479
Putnam187820
Robertson159621
Trousdale15836
Hamblen145615
Washington13822
Blount137315
Maury13299
Madison124423
Tipton123312
Sullivan110615
Hardeman97518
Bedford95511
Macon87313
Lake7980
Loudon7793
Gibson7659
Dickson7433
Bledsoe7272
Fayette7258
Anderson7227
Dyer6969
Henderson6362
Cheatham6229
Obion6194
Jefferson6164
Lawrence6137
Carter5936
Coffee5843
McMinn58320
Warren5674
Rhea5662
Greene5529
Haywood5477
Lauderdale5359
Weakley5295
Hawkins52010
Cocke5145
Roane5102
Cumberland5027
Hardin4938
Monroe46910
Smith4674
Giles40213
McNairy4006
DeKalb3791
Franklin3594
Carroll3526
Lincoln3251
Marshall3254
Johnson3180
White3155
Henry3071
Claiborne2960
Hickman2901
Crockett2855
Campbell2611
Chester2402
Marion2395
Overton2351
Wayne2312
Decatur2263
Polk2245
Grainger2120
Unicoi1800
Benton1731
Union1660
Cannon1590
Jackson1371
Morgan1331
Humphreys1313
Scott1302
Grundy1242
Sequatchie1151
Meigs1130
Fentress1040
Clay840
Perry840
Hancock832
Lewis801
Stewart790
Moore680
Houston630
Pickett401
Van Buren390

Community Events