Sea Nettles Missing From the Chesapeake Bay? Should We All Go Swimming Or Is This Another Red Flag?


I have started paying more attention to our environment. I plant things I know are crucial to certain species. I go organic as much as possible. I never spray harmful chemicals that may make their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Sure I read literature on gardening to gather as much information about the upcoming season. What things are native to my region and are beneficial to plant. I have the whole life cycle of the butterfly in my garden. I know wetlands are necessary to preserve. I have heard about the oyster programs that many homeowners living on the water participate in.

I pay attention to what project The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is undertaking. But when I go to the Chesapeake Bay I don’t necessarily pay attention to what is in the water. I’m too busy enjoying the sunset, the gulls and cranes, and the sailing yachts. I must admit I don’t spend much time in the water.

To my surprise I found out that the sea nettles are missing in action in the Chesapeake Bay. This is very bad news. The sea nettles (jellyfish) eat another invasive species known as ctenophores. Although many people think this is a jellyfish it isn’t, it is a distant relative of ctenes. These ctenes, both the Pink Comb Jelly and the Sea Walnut are nearly transparent and glow at night so most people don’t see them. However, they are voracious feeders and they like to eat zooplankton, fish, and oyster larvae.

Needless to say jellyfish play an important part in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. They are the watermen and waterwomen’s best friend. Sea nettles do sting swimmers from time to time so swimmers do need to be cautious. I know this first hand because about 25 years ago my family was swimming at the Jonas Green Park at the base of the Naval Academy Bridge. My sister who was swimming a bit farther out than the rest of us started screaming. By the time she had made it to shore she was in a good deal of pain. The jellyfishes’ tentacles are approximately five to six feet long. For this reason alone jellyfish do not have a good reputation but they play a vital role in the health of the bay.

Those of us that live near the Chesapeake Bay or their tributaries know many of the dangers to the Bay and we take appropriate action. For example, plastics, especially the six-pack plastic rings, can be wrapped around a turtle’s neck or trap any number of wild life and eventually kill them. Most people are conscious about using reusable bags instead of plastic. We are avid recyclers. We are literate on estuarine and coastal needs.

Several organizations plant trees on Arbor Day, builders build with reusable materials, and volunteers help to clean up our local communities. So I do try to stay up on any alert about our waterways. But yet I didn’t know the jellyfish were missing. Why? What would cause this phenomenon?

Well I found out it may just be a fluke. Next year’s crop of jellyfish is not necessarily determined by this year’s crop, hopefully. To me this is just another example of the writing on the wall. Too many of our wildlife is near or on the brink of extinction.

Here are some volunteer opportunities worth looking into:

According to University of Maryland Center for Environment Science’s website, there are a number of volunteer opportunities available at their Horn Point, Cambridge location.[1]

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a wide variety of opportunities. You can join the Oyster Restoration program or tend the crops on Clagett’s Farm.[2]

The Department of Natural Resources through their Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Maryland offer so many ways to help. From Jug Bay to Otter Point Creek and at Monie Bay there is something for everyone.[3]

We need to stop being a nation that uses harmful chemicals and fertilizers, uses GMOs, and Doesn’t Pay Attention to what is going on around them. The bigger picture matters. Extinct is just that—extinct.

I am cautiously optimistic that we can and will address the needs of our environment. Really—we have no other.

Photo provided by:

“Washington DC Zoo – Crysaora quinquecirrha 9” by Jarek Tuszynski (Jarekt) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –





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