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Rare blue jellyfish-like creatures showing up in greater numbers on Tofino, B.C., beaches

'It’s a one-way trip that doesn’t end well,' says mayor and marine biologist

Strong westerly winds pushed hundreds of Velellas onto Tofino's beaches on the weekend. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Long weekend visitors to Tofino, B.C., might have thought they were witnessing something out of science fiction, with hundreds of tiny, blue, jellyfish-like creatures covering the beaches.

But what was initially thought of as a rare sighting of Velella velella is likely the new normal.

Mayor Josie Osborne says spring-time strandings of Velella velella on Tofino's beaches has grown over the last decade due to warming ocean temperatures.

"We've been seeing hundred of thousands of tiny baby Velella velellas," said Osborne. "In the past few days, we've been seeing much larger individuals, more fully formed adults if you will."  

Warm water conditions coupled with the right amount of plankton created the current population boom, according to Osborne, who is also a marine biologist.

The creatures, also known as "by-the-wind sailors" because of the sails on their backs, are small carnivorous animals related to jellyfish that live on the surface of the water, normally hundreds of miles offshore.

They can't swim, so their movements are dictated by wind. Tofino had wind gusts up to 56 km/h over the weekend.

"It's a one-way trip that doesn't end well," said Osborne. "That's the result of these sustained westerlies. They just have no way of getting back in the ocean."

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Small little things aren't they. I've never heard of Velella velella before. Interesting.

Yeah, this is a new one on me too.

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