Giant red, purple and yellow jellyfish are washing onto Maine beaches where they haven’t been seen before.

“I’ve been walking the beach every day for 40 years and I found two in one month,” said Suzanne Beaulieu of Saco. “I’ve never seen them.”

Beaulieu said she has seen the transparent and much smaller moon jellies and once saw a Portuguese man o’ war, a purplish creature closely related to jellyfish. But the blob-like creatures that have appeared in recent weeks are far bigger than anything she’s seen.

“Very, very large and ugly looking, too,” she said.

This lion’s mane jellyfish was found near Ferry Beach in Saco in late April. Photo courtesy of Marc Bourassa

One that she and her husband encountered at the edge of the surf at Ferry Beach State Park in late April was about 6 feet wide and had tentacles 20 feet long, she said. She came across another one Friday just north of the state park that appeared to be 2 or 3 feet wide.

“We went swimming in the ocean yesterday, my kids and grandkids, and this morning coming back from my walk there was one right in front of my house,” Beaulieu said.

The jellyfish have also appeared in recent weeks on beaches in Casco Bay and Down East.

Suzanne Beaulieu came across this smaller lion’s mane jellyfish in Saco on Friday. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Beaulieu

They are a jellyfish species named lion’s mane because of their size and the length of the tentacles. They are the largest species of jellyfish in the world and have tentacles that can grow longer than 100 feet.

The tentacles can sting and are used to repel predators and stun small fish or crustaceans that they eat. But they are not considered to be a danger to people.

Lion’s mane jellyfish have been reported on Maine beaches in past years, too, although the sightings have usually been more sporadic and the animals have usually been smaller.

While the reasons aren’t entirely understood, reports of jellyfish sightings in the Gulf of Maine appear to have increased over the past few summers, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The institute, the Bigelow Lab for Ocean Sciences and the Island Institute are gathering information about sightings.

Anyone who encounters jellyfish in the water or on a beach is asked to report the sighting at report.bigelow.org/jellyfish.

 


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