Ocracoke Island, one of North Carolina’s popular vacation destinations, has experienced its fair share of phenomena involving sea creatures. Recently, a swarm of hundreds of cannonball jellyfish washed up on the north end of the island with members of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a sub-organization within the National Park Service (NPS), taking video and photos of the event to share on social media. A Facebook post from the group explains that: “Jellyfish rely on winds and currents to help them swim. Colder water temperatures, winds, and currents can all play a role in them washing ashore.” A theory for this swarm is the increase of reproduction and therefore population of the cannonball jellyfish, which is referred to as blooms.
In a Newsweek article, Cheryl Lewis Ames, an associate professor of Applied Marine Biology at the Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University said: “Why blooms occur in some years and not in others, or why sometimes blooms are larger in some years compared to others is all tied to environmental factors, but not well understood. Some researchers think of it a bit like how certain cicadas are programmed to appear every seven years. Other blooms researchers say bloom frequency and size are connected to sun spots. In my several decades of jellyfish research I have found that few jellyfish species will reliably show up just when you expect them.” Massive amounts of jellyfish are not the only aquatic wildlife Ocracoke Island faced in recent weeks.
On the southern side of the island there have been hundreds of small fish that wash up ashore with the waves. Melinda Sutton, a local resident who owns Tradewinds Tackle Shop believes that the cause for the sheer number of small fish washing up on the beach are bluefish. In an article published by Island Free Press, Sutton states: “We think it’s the bluefish that have been in the sound all summer and are heading out to the ocean, and it’s not a straightforward north-south migration from here, even in our Oyster Creek area, where there are canals bordering houses, we’ve had reports of more and more fish in the water.”