June 15, 2005

Jellyfish Blamed for Stings in Honolulu

HONOLULU (AP) -- Marine scientists believe they have determined what is stinging or biting canoe paddlers at Keehi Lagoon. Waikiki Aquarium curator Jerry Crow said he consulted with other marine scientists and is confident that a microscopic jellyfish called hydromedusa is causing the stings in the lagoon near Honolulu International Airport.

"They are widespread throughout this area. They are clearly very abundant," Crow said. "I feel pretty confident that that's what's stinging people."

More water samples were being taken Tuesday.

Canoe paddlers have been complaining for several weeks about getting stung at Keehi. Kaneohe Canoe Club paddler Eric Moncriffe said he was severely stung at Keehi two weeks ago and sought treatment at a hospital.

Hui Wa'a, one of two outrigger canoe associations on Oahu, canceled its regatta at Keehi last Sunday and is moving this weekend's races to Maili, said its permitting representative, Rebel Chamizo.

Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association president Hannie Anderson said her organization also is exploring alternate locations.

She said the state Department of Health was informed months ago that there was a problem, and she hopes the state can do something about it.

Watson Okubo of the health department's Clean Water Branch said some of the descriptions by afflicted canoe paddlers suggest to him there may be another marine organism, or multiple organisms, involved.

Okubo said aku fishermen have long been aware of the possibility of being stung at Keehi.

Crowe said stinging hydromedusae have been reported in Hawaii for many years, at least since the 1950s, although the creatures appear to go through population cycles.


Information from: The Honolulu Advertiser, http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/