Thousands of small blue jellyfish-like creatures known as “By-the-Wind Sailor” were spotted washed ashore along the beach between the Fishing Club and Club Raro yesterday.
The Ministry of Marine Resources (Tu’anga O Te Pae Moana) received a call from a concerned member of the public about a mass of the blue organisms on the shore, wondering what they were and if they were dangerous. MMR Marine Scientists Kirby Morejohn and James Kora went out to the site to conduct an initial assessment of the organisms, collected some samples and identified them as the species Velella velella, commonly known as by-the-wind sailors.
This free floating creature grows up to around 7cm long and lives on the surface of the open ocean. It uses its sail to catch the wind and propel itself forward. They feed on plankton and the free-swimming larvae of crustaceans and fish. Under certain wind conditions, the animals are vulnerable to being stranded on beaches, as onshore winds can lead them directly towards land. These attributes are what gives it the name ‘by the wind sailor’. The strange-looking creatures often sail the ocean in large groups and because of this, are why some beach strandings number in the thousands.