Assistant Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations
Officials from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change are addressing the public’s concerns about the presence of some marine creatures resembling jellyfish within the Territory’s waters.
Environmental Officer II/Marine Biologist Ms. Argel Horton explained that the creatures causing concern are not jelly fish but are in fact sea salps which are gelatinous creatures that are found in warm seas and are often overlooked in the world of marine biology.
“They are part of the tunicate family also known as sea squirts and are not harmful to humans, so residents don’t need to be nervous or scared when enjoying their usual visit to the beach,” Ms. Horton said.
The Marine Biologist said the appearance of sea salps on beaches correlates to phytoplankton blooms within the water, which is their food source.
“The more phytoplankton is present in the water, the more abundant the sea salps will be as they reproduce themselves through cloning,” she said, adding that the sea salps reproduce to match their food source.
“Their numbers will continue to increase until their food source is gone. They will then die off and wash up on the beach or sink to the ocean floor. They are important for cycling nutrients throughout the water column as they excrete nutrients to ocean communities,” Ms. Horton further stated.
There are about fifty species of salps in different parts of the ocean with some bearing the resemblance of little tubes, long snakes, and chandeliers hanging in the water. They can survive between two weeks and three months before being eaten by mackerel and tuna, or slowly fall to the seafloor where they are collected in vast quantities.
Persons are encouraged to telephone the ministry at 284-468-2147 for more information.
The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change ministry is responsible for the effective management of natural resources of the Virgin Islands.