Ocean News to Note This 4th of July Holiday

Mussels literally roasting in their shells at Bodega Bay, CA. Image: Jackie Sones

As Weather.com reported, unusually warm temperatures combined with seasonal low tides have literally roasted California mussels in their shells in a mass die-off that could have larger implications on the local marine ecosystem. At the same time, this July 4th weekend a record number of sharks have been spotted off the coast of Cape Cod and jellyfish season has returned to Hilton Head including sightings of the deadly Portuguese man-of-war–make sure you read all local warnings before getting in the water this holiday!

Mussels in Trouble: As Jackie Sones, a research coordinator for UC Davis and the Bodega Marine Reserve, documented in her blog posts of the mussel die off, this is the most significant mussel mortality we’ve seen on Bodega Head during the last 15 years. Internal temperatures in the bivalves could have reached 100 degrees F and as Treehugger explained, what made this situation so unusual is that the heatwave occurred early in the summer season, when tides shift in the late morning and early afternoon. This exposes the mussels to more direct sunlight than they’d normally have later in the year, when tides shift in the early morning or late at night, reducing the danger for tide pool dwellers.

Sharks off the Cape: In the past two days, 11 great white sharks have been spotted off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As CBS explained, in Orleans, MA, fire chief Anthony Pike has added landline phones because of bad cell reception and first aid boxes are on the beach for dealing with severe injuries. Shark bites are still very rare but if people at the Cape want to keep an eye on their favorite beach, there’s an app for that. It’s called Sharktivity and it plots shark sightings. Sharks thriving off the coast of Cape Cod are likely a result of measures to protect the gray seal, a primary food source for the apex predators. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go swimming but just remember that when you’re in the ocean you’re in shark territory and to always be vigilant and take precautions.

Jellyfish Invade SC Beaches: Hilton Head, South Carolina is another popular destination for the 4th of July weekend yet this holiday, beachgoers may be seeing another flag along with Old Glory. As the Island Packet reported, Hilton Head lifeguards at several beaches are flying yellow flags this week to warn of jellyfish stings, according to a Facebook post by the Shore Beach Service lifeguarding agency. While officials say an influx of jellyfish are normal at this time of the year, swimmers should nonetheless be aware and know what to do should they get stung–stings are generally uncomfortable but if you’re having a more severe reaction seek medical treatment immediately. But if you’re enjoying SC beaches this weekend, be aware that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently issued a warning to swimmers about Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish washing up on beaches in the Palmetto state–their strings can be deadly even when they’re dead.

Why This Matters: None of these stories should deter you from enjoying the beaches this weekend but just remember that you should always be aware of your surroundings when in the ocean and that our oceans exist in a precious balance. Conserving species, addressing climate change, and ensuring that we’re not disrupting wildlife habitats when we enjoy the great outdoors are important steps to take to ensure that our oceans remain healthy for all generations to come.


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