Cannonball Jellies Make an Appearance

Driving down the beach the last week of the year, from Buxton to Frisco and then the Hatteras loop, it looked as though there had been a slaughtering of jellyfish. The numbers of cannonball jellyfish that had washed up on the beach was incredible. Also called jelly balls, jelly bombs and cannonball jellyfish, these harmless jellies are mostly seen offshore in the gulf or when warm waters push up close to the shore, but are not uncommon during late summer/fall.

Their name derives from their shape and size. These jellies can grow up to 10 inches in diameter and are often colored with a brown/ red pigment. Underneath their body is a cluster of arms that they use to propel themselves and catch food. Their tentacles are not made to sting, however, they do secret a type of mucous when disturbed that can be an irritant.

While seen all along the east coast from New England all the way down to Brazil, they seem to appear more in the fall months off the NC coast. With the abundance of drum larvae, Hatteras is a great place for them to feed. Likewise, they are also a favorite snack for the leatherback sea turtles.

In the local fishing community, the jellyfish have actually been quite a headache. These large creatures have invaded all of the commercial fishing nets with reports of up to 6,000 in each net on a bad day. 

While a delicacy in Japan and considered the caviar of jellyfish, I’m not too sure they will be featured on Hatteras Island menus anytime soon. 


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