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Thousands of Jellies Wind Up on N. Oregon Coast

Published 02/15/22 at 5:32 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Thousands of Jellies Wind Up on N. Oregon Coast

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(Warrenton, Oregon) – One Oregon coast group comically called it “Invasion of the Jellies!” in a faux, old-school horror movie turn-of-the-phrase. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe)

It's no invasion, however, it's just a lot of moon jellies washing up on the north Oregon coast because that's simply what nature does every once in awhile. And it will likely be extraordinarily brief.

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium said beaches from Gearhart, Seaside and Warrenton have received hundreds - even thousands of them - depending on the area. One expert they deal with said it was the most he'd seen in decades.

“While he was out on the beach photographing, he started to notice moon jellies washing in as the tide came in,” Boothe said. “He gave us a call because in all of his years on the beach he had never seen so many moon jellies wash in at once.”

Boothe and others from the aquarium went out to check it out and they quickly confirmed what their contact had said.

“There were hundreds if not thousands of moon jellies concentrated on the high tide line, and more were coming in,” Boothe said. “Once moon jellies hit the beach, they are no longer alive and there is no way to save them.”

A group of of moon jellies is called a smack, Boothe said. This sort of thing happens because there's simply a lot of them offshore for whatever reason, and since the moon jelly (known officially as Aurelia aurita) isn't a strong swimmer, it's at the mercy of the winds and tides. If there's a large smack of them out there, they wash ashore in large numbers.

Boothe explains it's not some anomalous environmental issue or related to climate change. It's the ocean: stuff washes up. A lot.

Boothe explains:

“Why so many? Simply ocean conditions, currents, and wind. Moon jellies cannot swim against the ocean's currents. When a large group of jellyfish gather close to shore localized surfaces winds and currents can cast them onto the beach and this is exactly what happened. A large concentration of moon jellies gathered close to shore and then the wind picked up and started snorting out of the west. This pushed the jellies onto local beaches.”

While this occurs with regularity, this inundation was unusual and of note, she said.

“It is actually part of their natural life cycle,” Boothe said. “We see them on the beach all of the time. What was interesting in this event was the concentration of them.”

It would actually be alarming if jellyfish stopped washing up.

How a lot of them start breeding off the Oregon coast is interesting as well.

“Just off the Oregon coast the ocean temperatures are influenced by the Columbia River, ocean upwellings and regional currents that bring a plethora of species along with warmer water,” Boothe said. “These factors are a recipe for huge smacks of jellies to thrive and multiply.”

Then there's one rather weird part about all this. If you want to see this, you'd better hurry.

“Once the jellies wash in, they start to dry out and within 24 hours you may never even know that a large-scale event has occurred,” Boothe said.

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