Jellyfish expert Paul Bologna says that sea nettle numbers tend to fluctuate from year to year. But the species tends to do better in areas with more docks, jetties and other manmade structures to which its polyps can attach before producing free-swimming jellyfish. In undeveloped waters, they will attach to oyster shells.
Bologna, director of the Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences Program at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said that sea nettle numbers in his state declined after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 washed away coastal structures.
We’re just starting to get back to the numbers we had in 2011 and before, which were really big years.
It can take time for sea nettle numbers to build, but when they get to a certain point, the population can explode. That’s because the polyps can clone themselves, spreading over a larger area before budding off jellies.
Bologna is working with coastal residents in New Jersey to pull docks out of the water in the off-season and power-wash them to remove them of sea nettle polyps.
We’re never going to get rid of them, but if we disrupt that, there will be fewer.