There are more Barrel jellyfish around the coast of SW England than I have ever seen in fifteen plus years of sea kayaking. A lot more. I have seen more in the last three days than all the other years added together……91 on Tuesday (yes I counted them, how nerdy is that?), 120+ on Wednesday (lost the plot after a hundred) and 40+ today.
This number of any other jellyfish is not unusual, but Barrel Jellyfish are so BIG that this is really quite a phenomenon. Their ‘bell’ can be two foot across and they can weigh in at over 30kgs.
This video clip shows the size quite nicely:
Their appearance seems to have coincided with a plankton bloom (upon which they feast) that has probably been caused by the sunny weather. The nearshore water is full of specks of plankton which you can see clearly in this clip:
I can’t recall ever seeing such a sudden bloom so early in the year….the water is usually very clear in March and April and gets full of plankton in May.
As I paddle along I can see jellyfish beneath the surface up to about ten foot from my kayak, so I only see a tiny fraction of the vast numbers out there. The three locations I have seen them over the last three days are fifty miles apart so there must be millions of these large and mysterious creatures floating about around our coast. Actually it’s a bit unfair to imply that they drift about passively. On the contrary they seem to be very motivated to get somewhere with the relentless pulsating of their ‘bell’, although they maybe don’t know exactly where that somewhere is ( they havn’t got a brain).
Personally I find them absolutely fascinating and a bit mesmerising, especially when they are illuminated by dancing shafts of sunlight.
If all these jellyfish end up on the beaches after an onshore gale it will cause quite a stir. Just one of these washed up on the sand causes heads to turn, so hundreds or thousands could be quite a scenario. At least they don’t sting so are harmless to people. Maybe they’ll swim away somewhere else. I don’t know.
One exciting possibility is that the unprecedented number of Barrel Jellyfish will lure in a Leatherback Turtle or two, because Barrel Jellyfish are the favourite food of the Leatherback. A good reason to keep on paddling and keep on looking.