The season of jellyfish on Bonaire–take precautionary measures in the coming weeks.
March and April are normally the months when more jellies (also commonly referred to as jellyfish, although they are not fish) can be encountered in the waters surrounding Bonaire. This year, it appears the season of jellies is starting earlier than normal.
Why are jellies more prevalent at this time of year?
Recently, through a combination of plankton blooms, which attracts jellies, and light wind reversals, large numbers of jellies washed up on Bonaire’s leeward (west) coast, including some that have painful and nasty stings. Luckily, plankton blooms are rare and short-lived and they mainly occur in colonies on the South American coast. Due to recent reversal of winds, they have been swept toward the ABC islands. The good news is that plankton and jellies are favorite foods for many turtles, rays, and whale sharks.
In mid-February, a Portuguese Man-of-War was spotted on the beach at Sorobon. It is a cnidarian with a float of up to 9″/25 cm, filled with a gas. This “float”catches the wind to “sail.” These jellies have very thin, very long tentacles which can reach quite deep. Usually the Portuguese Man-of-War lives in colonies far out to sea. During wind reversals they can be swept in closer to the coastline. A sting is extremely painful.
Bonaire Banded Box Jelly.
In February, the full moon occurred in conjunction with a plankton bloom and slight wind reversals, and these coinciding events hearkened the mating period of the box jelly, Tamoya Ohboya. These jellies mate in the evening near the coast, and swimming is not recommended during these times. Tamoya Ohboya is a translucent “balloon” swimming sideways. The sting is very painful and can be dangerous. Each month, during the first 10 days after the full moon, a few of these box jellies spotted on Bonaire.
But it is not all bad news! Comb jellies are oval-shaped jellies with a brightly striped “comb” which is used to propel themselves. These jellies do not sting and they are favorite food for sea turtles! The spot winged comb jelly glows in the dark when something moves–just wave your hand in the water when you see them. A beautiful sight!
Avoiding stings from jellies.
Be aware of the jelly season, and try to avoid being in the water during prime mating time (in the evening hours ten days after a full moon). When diving or snorkeling, be sure to wear a wet suit or skin. If you observe any Portuguese Man-of-War or any box jelly, do exit the water as soon as possible.
Medical assistance and first-aid for jelly stings.
If you do receive a sting from a jelly, first-aid procedures may include immersing the area in hot salt water or dousing with vinegar (although this is not recommended for the sting of the Portuguese Man-of-War). Many dive shops also have Sting No More available in their retail stores. Do not use urine or fresh water, and do not scratch or rub the afflicted area.
The San Francisco Hospital on Bonaire (telephone: (+599) 715-8900) also has protocols in place for bites and stings, including those of jellies. If necessary, do report to the emergency room at the hospital for treatment and assistance.