- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - In a Member Exchange story May 21 about sea nettles, The Press of Atlantic City reported erroneously that a search and rescue group created a triangular-shaped brush head to remove polyps. The group uses the brush head but did not create it.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Sea nettles make comeback in New Jersey after storm

Sea nettles, a stinging kind of jellyfish, have been making a comeback in some parts of New Jersey ever since wooden docks and bulkheads destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 have been replaced by vinyl

By CINDY NEVITT

The Press of Atlantic City

BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - The polyps never saw the scrub brushes coming. Those wielding the brushes never saw the polyps.

Nonetheless, employees from the state Department of Environmental Protection and members of Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue took to the water Thursday and blindly battled the microscopic organisms in the hopes of eliminating them before they could develop into sea nettles.

Sea nettles, a stinging kind of jellyfish, have been making a comeback- and quite the pest of themselves -in some parts of the state ever since wooden docks and bulkheads destroyed by Sandy in 2012 have been replaced by vinyl. The polyps, which adhere to hard surfaces to survive the winter, prefer man-made material over creosote-treated wood, volunteers were told before they dispersed in kayaks, rafts, boats and chest waders through the lagoons of the Shore Acres section of the township.

“If we scrub them off, we kill them,” said Paul Bologna, director of marine biology at Montclair State University, told The Press of Atlantic City (https://bit.ly/241v40C). “But more important, we disrupt their life cycle.”

“We disrupt their life cycle at their most vulnerable point,” said Paul Skehan, president of the search and rescue group.

Skehan’s organization uses a triangular-shaped brush head, that attaches by a hose to a half-horsepower gas engine, to remove polyps with more efficiency than manpower alone can. GraceAnne Taylor said the group hopes to expand its role in the fight against sea nettle polyps by offering its assistance to waterfront property owners who don’t want to tackle the task of scrubbing the undersides of their docks or bulkheads below the waterline.

“The plan of interrupting the sexual (medusa)/asexual (polyp) life cycle is very reasonable,” said Matthew Landau, professor of marine science at Stockton University, in an email. He is the author of “Poisonous, Venomous, and Electric Marine Organisms of the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean,” among other books.

It’s important to prevent sea nettles from developing, Bologna said, because the stinging jellyfish could have a negative effect on tourism and because “they eat all the things we like to eat,” particularly fish and crab eggs, preventing them from growing to maturity.

“These guys are out there in huge numbers, stealing all the food,” he said.

Tourism in New Jersey is a $40 billion a year industry, so protecting recreational water users from unpleasant encounters with sea nettles makes good economic sense, Bologna said.

“I can verify: The sting is pretty bad,” said Peter Rowe of the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium on Wednesday. “It can pack a pretty good wallop. You should avoid it.”

While sea nettles are found from Massachusetts to Texas along the Gulf of Mexico and are heavily concentrated in the Chesapeake Bay, they seem to be nonexistent in some South Jersey waters, said Fred Akers, administrator of the Great Egg Harbor Council and Watershed Association. Primarily, lack of heavy development- a contributing cause of sea nettle proliferation in the Barnegat Bay area -has protected some of the state’s southernmost waterways.

“Representatives from 12 towns on the Great Egg Harbor River Council meet six times a year to discuss any and all problems and issues regarding the river and bay, and sea nettles have never been a topic of discussion,” Akers said. “We also do many trawling and seining activities in the bay and no sea nettles have ever turned up in our nets.”

As is often the case, it appears mankind has contributed to the increase in sea nettles, the experts said. Development and redevelopment of the waterfront in the Barnegat Bay area has provided abundant habitat in the form of docks and bulkheads for the polyps. And the leatherback turtle, one of the few natural predators of the adult sea nettle, doesn’t live in the estuarial waters that the stinging jellyfish favor.

“In places where there’s limited space and limited oxygen, the polyps and sea nettles are winning by default,” Bologna said.

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