You have likely seen them - gelatinous blobs gently floating and bobbing with the sway of the ocean. With no brain and a body made of 95 per cent water - Jellyfish come in all different shapes and sizes. There are over 75 different species of Jellyfish in BC alone. This is a small guide to identifying some of the common Jellyfish seen here in Vancouver.
Lionsmane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
These incredible Jellyfish can grow up to 2m across with up to 9m long tentacles. It is these jellies you want to be careful of as their tentacles will sting! The sting will subside after a few hours but check out the section below for how to treat jellyfish stings. With a huge coloured main cascading from the body these jellies are easy to identify and will often be seen at depth and near the surface. The mane will often provide shelter and protection for juvenile and nimble fish species.
Fried Egg Jellyfish (Phacellophora camtschatica)
Not quite as tasty as a normal fried egg, these jellies have a distinctive bell shaped body with a 'freshly cracked' yellowy-orange bulb in the middle, which is reminiscent of an egg yolk (hence the name). It is generally smaller than the lion's mane jelly and its tentacles only produce a mild sting. It primarily preys on other jellyfish. Because the sting of this jellyfish is so weak, many small crustaceans regularly ride on its bell and even steal food from its arms and tentacles.
Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia labiata)
Growing up to half a meter across, these jellies can be identified by the four pinkish, yellow or purple 'horseshoes' located at the top and center of the body. These are the moon jellies' distinctive sex organs. These jellies can often be found grouped together in sheltered bays, and commonly seen in Whytecliff Park in Horseshoe Bay.
Sea Nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens)
Another species to watch out for the stinging tentacles! These jellies wander the open coast and are typically pale, pinkish or yellowish, often with radiating more deeply colored stripes found on the body. Long thin tentacles surround the thicker tentacles used for hunting.
What to do if you are stung by a Jellyfish
Firsty, the best way to prevent Jellyfish stings is to use a proper exposure suit. Most divers in BC will dive with a drysuit, hood and gloves which gives them full body protection. However in warmer waters, a thin long-sleeve Rash Guard, or long sleeve wetsuit will give you adequate protection. Similarly a pair of thin water shoes prevent any shallow jellies from catching you out and protecting your feet as you walk into the water.
If you are stung by a Jellyfish, the first thing is to is get out of the water. If the person stung shows signs of a severe allergic reaction, or the sting covers more than half an arm/leg, then call emergency services as soon as possible. For milder stings, remove the stinging tentacle using gloves or a plastic object such as a card. Rinse the area stung with seawater to deactivate the stinging cells and rinse the area with vinegar or solution of baking soda, to neutralise the stinging cells. Then apply a cold compress to the area, or soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes. From this you can treat any discomfort, itching or swelling using a mild hydrocortisone cream, oral antihistamine or over the counter pain reliever. Providing the sting doesn't worsen, clean open sores 3 times a day and apply antibiotic ointment and bandage if needed.