SEATTLE (AP) — The same gelatinous sea creatures that clogged the intake at California's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant last spring have shown up this winter on the Washington coast, marine life experts say.
The harmless jellyfish-like animals are called salps.
They've been found by clam diggers and turned up in the pots of crab fishermen who have been asking what they are, said state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Dan Ayres at Montesano.
He hasn't seen them in more than 30 years and says their appearance now is unusual, but not alarming.
"I suspect these guys came from the deep ocean," Ayres said Wednesday. "Why they've been washed up is a question I can't answer."
Salps are common in the blue water off Oregon and Washington, said Rick Brodeur, an oceanographer known as the "jellyfish person" at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Science Center in Newport, Ore.
Salps turn up in survey nets, and their numbers vary from year to year. Their appearance on the Washington coast could mean their numbers are increasing for some reason or a current has brought them onshore.
"Sometimes fishermen bring us stuff and say, 'This is really weird,' but they just don't see them" often, Brodeur said Thursday. "It doesn't mean it's a long-term change."
Masses of salps last April off California's central coast clogged cooling water intake screens and forced operators to shut down a Diablo Canyon reactor.
"Huge numbers of salps" surprised scientists conducting a survey off central California with a trawler last May and June, said John C. Field, research fish biologist with NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center at Santa Cruz, Calif.
"No one from the survey has ever seen anything like it," Field said in an email. The weight ripped the trawler nets.
Crabber Adam Miller had never seen a salp until he pulled one aboard in early February in a crab pot off Westport.