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Thousands of pyrosomes washing up on local beaches

Research into what they eat and what it means to have them in the ecosystem is ongoing
By Katie Frankowicz

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 11, 2017 6:48AM

Last changed on December 11, 2017 11:06AM

Pyrosomes dot the landscape near Cannon Beach as research into their impact on ecosystems continues.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Pyrosomes dot the landscape near Cannon Beach as research into their impact on ecosystems continues.

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Thousands of pyrosomes have recently washed up on beaches in the region.

Katie Frankowicz/The Daily Astorian

Thousands of pyrosomes have recently washed up on beaches in the region.

Buy this photo
Mysterious creatures known as pyrosomes have been washing up on local beaches recently and have been showing up in fishing nets.

Katie Frankowicz/The Daily Astorian

Mysterious creatures known as pyrosomes have been washing up on local beaches recently and have been showing up in fishing nets.

Buy this photo

The pyrosome invasion continues.

Thousands of the strange, pickle-shaped gelatinous creatures continue to wash up on Clatsop County beaches months after ocean biologists first recorded masses of them drifting offshore during a research cruise in the spring.

Very little is known about pyrosomes or why they have shown up in force now. Research into what they eat and what it means to have them in the ecosystem is ongoing.

Pyrosomes have been seen in Oregon and Washington state waters before but never in such large numbers. This spring, there were enough floating in the water column to clog up fishing gear on commercial shrimp boats.

The colonial animals — a single tube contains hundreds, possibly thousands of individuals — have been recorded as far north as Alaska, where they have never been seen before.

Fishermen first saw them in their fishing gear in February. At the end of October, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center were still encountering them in acoustic, surface and bottom trawl surveys all the way from Kodiak to waters off southeastern Alaska.

According to NOAA, pyrosome numbers in the Northern California Current — which encompasses Northern California, Oregon and Washington state — went up in 2015 and spiked again in 2016.

“As far as scientists know, however, their abundance this year is unprecedented,” NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein wrote in June.





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