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Venomous Portuguese Man o' War wash ashore in Delaware

Delaware State Parks
A portuguese man o' war found in Fenwick Island on Monday, July 6.

DNREC has issued warnings to beachgoers due to several sightings of the venomous Portuguese man o’ war on Delaware beaches.

Portuguese man o’ wars are jellyfish-like animals that can cause painful stings for those who come into contact with their tentacles, which can extend as long as 50 feet. Three have been sighted in Cape Henlopen, Fenwick Island State Park and Faithful Steward Beach at Delaware Seashore State Park.

DNREC officials say that the water is still safe to swim, but are asking beachgoers to exercise caution. Tentacles can be brushed off the body with a towel or a stick. If a person has been stung, they should immediately tell a lifeguard. Skin welts that are caused by stings can persist for about an hour.

Those who have been stung by a Portuguese man o’ war can experience fainting, dizziness, and trouble breathing.

Portuguese man o’ wars are usually found in the southern United States. The sightings in Delaware and New Jersey last week are not common. In Delaware, they hadn’t been spotted in 15 years. Wayne Kline, Chief of Enforcement for Delaware State Parks, says the recent weather most likely caused them to wash up on First State shores.


“Given some weather conditions we’ve had, that’s why they may have been pushed out of the gulf stream and are coming to shore," said Kline.

Portuguese man o’ wars have no means of propulsion, so they move according to the direction of wind and water currents.


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