Thursday, March 6, 2014

Useful information re gill nets and box jellies

My friend Suzanne is, among other things, an ardent ocean swimmer and an impressive protector of the ocean habitat. A couple of her recent emails had information that I would like to pass along. The first is from Dr. Angel Yanagihara, a UH researcher on box jellies and their toxins.

She is trying to get the word out on a couple of important things NOT TO DO in case of box jelly stings (basically - do not use an Epi-pen - it just makes things much worse).
Her email to Suzanne:
From: Angel Yanagihara <>
Subject: Re: Photos Questioning the dangerous change at Hanauma Bay 2/28/14
Date: March 1, 2014 12:30:28 PM HST
Reply-To: Angel Yanagihara

Aloha Suzanne,

Thank you for your email! It is extremely worrisome that the public is potentially left to assume that there is an acceptable risk in Hanauma Bay despite the presence of beaching Alatina alata box jellyfish.  Thank you for the photos. Do you all also wear hoods, gloves and booties?

I am concerned that there are some persistent misunderstandings about box jellies.

1. The response to the sting is not an "allergic" reaction. It is not at all like a bee sting. The venom of the box jelly contains ancient pore-forming proteins structurally similar to anthrolysin O and streptolysin O, the pore-forming toxins of anthrax and strep. People are not "allergic' to these pathogenic bacteria either. Our blood cells are uniquely vulnerable to box jelly porins and to bacterial porins. There is no "immunity" or "resistance" - it is a question of the dose delivered. Unfortunately, thinner skin areas of the body will allow a greater dose to be delivered. Women and children have thinner skin. So if an adult man is stung over thicker skin a smaller amount of venom will reach the blood stream than a sting of a child over a thinner skin region, such as face or neck.

I cannot stress this enough. I am conducting studies now involving box jelly venom injection into piglets. The data clearly show as our human whole blood studies show that the venom itself causes a massive rise in plasma catecholamines - EPI and NorEPI; this is well reported in the clinical literature as a "catecholamine surge". Adding an EPI injection on top of that situation is like adding fuel to a fire. In fact the losses of life that have occurred from box jelly sting have almost always involved well intentioned EPI administration. My studies are not yet published but please be advised that the use of EPI pen is an extremely dangerous practice and yields no therapeutic benefit whatsoever. I am happy to share my unpublished data with local medical decision makers. A Japanese tourist recently died after a sting from the same influxing box jellyfish species we have here (Alatina alata) in Saipan. Emergency treatment included EPI administration. I conducted 2 field surveys this year off Saipan and collected samples to send to our phylogenetic colleagues at the Smithsonian. They confirmed the species off Saipan is that has the same lunar synchronized spawning influx behaviour as our species is the same Alatina alata.

For more information please see:

I have prepared a little flyer to summarize Box Jellyfish safety and attached it here as a word doc open for editorial additions. I would be happy to collaborate with  Hanauma Bay folks with them taking this information  to prepare a version under their auspices. I also attach here a print ready PDF of this current version.

Thank you for your strong community voice and leadership Suzanne!


Topic Two - One day, Suzanne noted some people laying what appeared to be a illegal gill net along a windward beach. Rather than approaching them directly, she discretely took images and verified the net, then sent in the information. The response from Ken Lesperance of the DLNR is informative.
Date: February 28, 2014 1:28:04 PM HST
To: suzanne

Aloha Suzanne,

Bravo for the detailed information and how you were able to obtain photos without detection.  The only way to effectively protect our resources is through teamwork.  That said, please be careful.  Your safety is paramount.  Many people I have charged with lay net violations were methamphetamine users.  Additionally, when you are in the water around a lay net, be very careful.  I have become entangled on many occasions while pulling nets.
Lay nets are incredibly destructive to fish, marine mammals and turtles.  If you see an unregistered or otherwise suspicious gill net, call our dispatch at 453-6780 as soon as practical. ...  Laws regarding lay gill nets (do not apply to surround nets):
No more than 125’ long, 7’ high (and cannot be strung together to make one over 125’)
2 ¾ stretched mesh eye size
Must have registration tag on all four corners
Can only be laid 4 hours per day
Cannot be at night
Must be attended every 30 minutes and completely checked every 2 hours
There are a few other restrictions, I listed the common, easily detectable.
The detail you provided, with approximate time and photo of the house will make catching them far more likely.  I will get the info to my supervisor and we will come up with a plan.
Mahalo for your vigilance (as opposed to vigilantism),
 Here is a nice image of a gill net - (MH)
Image of gill net from Honolulu Advertiser article on drowned monk seal pup and proposed gear restrictions from 2006

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