Funding dries up for box jellyfish influx research

File photo: Box jellyfish warning sign
File photo: Box jellyfish warning sign

Following the lunar cycle, Oahu’s shores saw an influx of hundreds of box jellyfish today, and dozens of people were stung.

University of Hawaii researchers who have been studying the jellyfish patterns to better warn the public now have to stop that work because of a lack of funding.

UH researcher Angel Yanagihara told KHON2 there’s much to learn about the correlation between the lunar cycle and box jellies, but they need additional funding to keep up their public safety efforts.

Yanagihara has been studying box jellies and their venom for 20 years.

During that time, she and other researchers had also been counting and picking up the jellies that washed ashore.

“We’ve had a sustained count of the number of jellies each morning of each day of the influx every lunar cycle since 1997,” Yanagihara said. “We record the day, the time, the temperature, etc.”

We’re told that information can be used to better understand the jellyfish patterns and as a result, better notify the public when they’re in the water.

In the past, researchers were able to use some grant money to do this.

Now that’s not an option, but Yanagihara said it’s important to keep it up for public safety.

“Unfortunately a lot of visitors don’t even know this is a problem and the signage doesn’t go up from Ocean Safety until about 9 a.m.,” Yanagihara said.

Members from the St. Agustine Catholic Church have stepped in to pick up the jellyfish in the meantime and to warn beach goers.

“We were just overwhelmed with them, over 1,300 jelly fish were picked up today,” Rick Hall, a member of St. Agustine’s, said. “Then we educate them on why the jelly fish are here, how long they’re going to be here and what should they do if they happen to get stung.”

Yanagihara has reached out to city and state officials to get additional funding for this, but hasn’t had luck yet.

She’s hopeful her team can start again sooner than later.

“When we’re out there at 2 a.m., we have an advanced warning of how that day’s going to be. By 4 or 5 a.m. we know if it’s a really high month or low month, etc,” Yanagihara said.

Researchers are still able to continue their studies of the effects of jellyfish venom.

We reached out to Ocean Safety and we’re told about 55 jelly fish stings were reported between Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Hanauma Bay.

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