- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

WAIKIKI, Hawaii (AP) - An influx of box jellyfish has forced officials to close Hanauma Bay and post warning signs along the Oahu beach after dozens of people were reported to have been stung.

Lifeguards reported that 88 people had been stung by box jellyfish before officials closed the beach Wednesday. The beach was also closed Monday when about 40 people reported stings. Hanuama Bay is normally closed Tuesdays.

“I could see a lot of people were getting stung because they’re running to the life guards and a lot of little kids and babies started crying out of nowhere,” beachgoer Teresa Romero told Hawaii News Now on Tuesday (https://bit.ly/1SusOy4). “Then when the parent brings them up, you see a large sting mark on them.”

University of Hawaii researcher Dr. Angel Yanagihara said this month’s influx is among the largest reported over the last two decades. She said her team has collected 2,000 box jellyfish since the influx began Monday. The average collected over a three-day period is 273.

Jellyfish stings have also been reported at Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Beach Park. Lifeguards counted 1,060 jellyfish in Waikiki, 241 at Ala Moana and 125 at Pokai Bay on the Leeward Coast, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://bit.ly/1PTv8b5).

Yanagihara said other large influxes of box jellyfish were recorded in 2001 and 2008. Researchers attribute the high numbers of jellyfish to an increase in the marine animal’s food source, zooplankton.

“It’s a natural ocean phenomenon” that occurs about every decade, she said.

Hawaii sees a box jellyfish influx about 10 days after a full moon.

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