Balls of Jelly all over Matauri Bay?

Aha – so you’ve found strange blobs too? This post always receives a large amount of traffic. If you have a second, please leave a comment and let me know where you found your blobs! Much appreciated. Thank you.

In the comments, you’ll find a lot more information from around the world about the jelly balls and what they might be, so keep scrolling.

We’ve found some strange things lying on beaches – including a 4 ft hammerhead shark at Takou Bay – and yesterday’s find at Matauri Bay was up there with the best of them. Strewn across the shoreline were thousands of tiny balls of clear jelly, about the size of an M&M. A swim revealed millions more in the sea – you could feel them against your hands and feet with every stroke.

Sea Gooseberry, Jellyfish egg, or ‘salp’?

Some friendly passers-by thought they might be jellyfish eggs, which was a bit worrying when there were so many. A flick through Google produced two more candidates:

Sea Gooseberry – harmless carniverous Ctenophore

Salp – harmless planktonic tunicate which feeds on Phytoplankton and helps fight against global warming!

Jelly everywhere, but no icecream


Interesting update from POSSUM PETE in Comments (Jan 2017):

“I think there are a few different species, bits of species and various stages of life cycles being described here. Jelly is a pretty broad description and is used by lots of marine animals, and even some seaweeds have slime filled sac-like growths.

Definitely some descriptions match the smaller, cylindrical salps which wash up in their millions.

It might also be worth taking a look at Phylum Ctenophora, the Comb jellies. They can become very numerous in coastal lagoons and sheltered areas. Some descriptions sound like it could be these.

Also, for larger jelly bits of irregular size and shape, and maybe a wash up after a storm, then my best guess would be pieces of larger jellies like Moon jellies. It isn’t the strongest of body building materials. Also there could be some scraps left after they have been predated upon.

Then you have things like eggs as well…

Happy beach combing everyone.”

Thanks Possum Pete!

(PS. If you’re interested in possums, you’ll find a slightly gory article here)

Matauri Bay is half an hour north of Kerikeri, and home to a long-established Maori community. A small hill holds the Rainbow Warrior memorial, but I’ll leave that for another day…

Matauri Bay


  1. The hammerhead was amazing. So big. One of my criteria for moving here was that there were no sharks. Everyone said ‘oh no, nothing like that’. Now that I’m here I find they’re blooming everywhere. Apparently the Great Whites come in to spawn, but “when they spawn they don’t usually feed”. I like the ‘usually’. Very comforting!

    • No – not for definite. I think ‘salp’ is the favourite, and jellyfish eggs are ruled out – there are never any large numbers of jellyfish at Matauri Bay. I get so many hits on this page from all over the world, that it must be a global mystery! I might see if I can find a marine biologist to ask. If you find out anything, get back to us, Lisa.

  2. In the summer of 2011, I was in NY and those exact same jelly-like balls were all over the beach, every stroke in the water revealed more and more of those. It was so strange and according to frequent visitors they said that they just happened to appear one day and no one knew what they were. Although I remember someone told me that they might have appeared due to the 2011 earthquake in Japan, but it wasn’t for sure. I’m really glad to have found some info about them, I’ve been wondering what they could have been ever since!

    • Thanks for adding a comment, Isabela! We found the jelly balls in November 2011, which was eight months after the earthquake, but I’ve never seen them since. They seem to be very infrequent wherever they appear – enough to cause speculation.

      Anyone else got any theories for us?

  3. They were all over the beach at New Smyrna Beach, Fl. today. Someone told me they were harmless jellyfish with no tentacles. Also found a lot of huge, clear jellyfish blobs. A tropical storm just passed so am hearing that is the cause…

    • It does seem to be the consensus that some kind of disturbance brings them on. I’m trying to recall if we had a storm before I found the jelly balls, but it was too long ago.

  4. The moon jellies at New Smyrna Beach are very common it was the little blobs that surprised me. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I first noticed sandy clumps on the surf….it was everywhere. Strange texture too! As we walked the beach we began to notice that there was literally small chunks of what looked like pieces of the moon jellies. It was everywhere. Some one next to us came out of the water and his hair literally glistened he had so many pieces in his hair. My son noticed perfectly shaped little tiny tiny clear balls in his leg hair. Seriously it was weird.

    • Thanks for that. Your tiny jellies sound very small indeed and almost magical. Did you manage to get any photos? The ones I saw didn’t seem to have any internal structure to them – just completely clear.

      • Ours were completely clear too and the blobs in the sand were irregular shaped. The tiniest ones that we found on our bodies however appeared to be completely round and crystal clear. I definitely don’t think it was salp and don’t think it was the sea gooseberries. The mystery continues 🙂
        It’s absolutely gorgeous where you are!

  5. Hi Mount beach is covered in these at the moment. covered. varying in size a close examination of the gel revealed that inside most I looked at was a ‘thing’ in some it was a small black speck, others strands of blue fibre, some had what looked like a small egg sac but fibrous. the fibre structures remind me of Morgellens through a magnifying glass. this doesn’t look normal

    • Thanks for your inspection report, Paul. Very interesting. Would that be Mount Beach in the Bay of Plenty? We found some more up on the Karikari pensinsula at the weekend – the first time I’ve seen them since my original post. I wish I’d scooped some up for a look through the microscope. Next time!

  6. Ten days ago we were swimming amongst them at Mangawhai Heads and today again at Langs Beach, north of Auckland. Three years ago I came upon them at Amberley Beach in Canterbury where they were so thick, in long strands, it was like swimming in invisible noodle soup. Shudder.

    • We have them at Alonnah Beach, Bruny Island, off Tasmania. They started out as a small strings of completely clear eggs about 2 weeks ago. Then about a week Ago I noticed a small black speck in them, today they had a blue thing inside them. There are literally Billions of them in the water, you can feel them all while you are swimming.

      • Funny that you’ve seen them changing. I’ve only ever seen the clear jelly balls, but then we’re only at the beach once every week or two. It could give some clues as to what they are.

  7. We had our worst fishing trip ever yesterday here at Pukehina. The sea was so thick with Salps, you could scoop it up in your hands. The stuff stuck to our lines and softbaits so bad we had to shake it off every cast. It was in the surf and out as far as we went about 3k.

    I have seen it so bad at Port Jackson Coromandel you could almost stand on it.

    My theory is that fish would have a hard time breathing in such an environment a leave the area hence the lack of fish. Well that’s our excuse anyway LOL

  8. We are a surfing family in Ahipara at the southern end of 90 mile beach. These jellies are in the water every summer here, really thick sometimes too. Out past the breaking waves they are in strings 2 jellies wide that fall apart easily when you lift them, they are perfectly clear but have what looks like an embryo in them. They seem harmless and make good ammo when waiting on a wave! I’d be interested to know what these critters are.

  9. We have just been at Whangapoua and there was heaps of these in water and in long strands as people have described. We saw them with a black speck in them and small ? tentacles coming out of the top of them. Fishing was also bad.

    • Thanks for clearing all this up, Terry. The article says it all. Definitely not jellyfish eggs, but completely harmless, very beneficial organisms :-).

  10. From: Robert Bartz
    Subject: Unidentified Clear Jelly Balls appearing unaccountably in backyard environment
    Date: March 18, 2014 at 11:33:45 AM CDT


    I’m sending several sets of iPhone photos taken between Sat and today:

    These mystery objects were originally found clustered in 5-7 groupings of varying sizes as approximately as large as photo #2 all the way down to individual balls found variously 1 -3 feet from the larger groups. The immediate environment underneath the clusters is dead vegetation consisting of scrub oak leaves on top of long leaf pine straw and sand. There could also possibly be tiny patches of deer lichen which is plentiful on the adjacent lot.

    Photo #1
    New balls appearing on March 13-15 in older, partially destroyed cluster originally discovered late in February 24, 2014.

    Photo #2

    New cluster formed circa March 13-15 several weeks after discovery of first clusters

    These groupings were originally noticed in late Feb 24 2014; the photos were taken Saturday March 15; the upper photo shows new balls appearing after the pile was stepped on a week? previously. The second photo is an entirely new group first noticed at the time the photo was taken.

    Photo #3

    Five balls recovered Saturday and as they appear today, having absorbed tap water. A couple appear to have lost pieces of jelly.

    Photo #4

    Ball on right is damaged

    Photo #5

    All balls in this group have enlarged to approximately the same size.

    This group of photos 3, 4 and 5, illustrate balls isolated from the group in Photo #2. At the time of discovery, they were approximately 1mm or less in diameter. They were placed into a ziplock bag containing several ounces of tap water. Within two days they absorbed water and enlarged to the present size of about 2mm.

    Photo #6

    These new smaller balls are markedly different from the above group. They are firmer and more resilient to dropping.

    Photo #7

    Close up view.

    Photo #8

    The third group consists of three newly discovered small balls. To the touch, they appeared more firm than the larger, older balls. When dropped, they bounced lively; whereas older, larger balls displayed much less elasticity.

    Interesting, no? Would appreciate hearing your speculations.

    Bob Bartz

    PS Received this response from a friend last evening

    • This is very weird, Bob. Jelly balls away from a seaside environment? Thanks very much for sharing your detailed study.
      Anyone have any thoughts on these?

  11. We have just been at Umukeke, over the hill from Whangaruru Harbour, Northland, NZ. These jelly balls formed a tide line all along the beach. There were 1 or 2 larger ones (small saucer size) but most were M&M size or smaller. They looked really magical but 2days later my son has broken out in an incredibly itchy rash on his arms only. Wondering whether it could be related to these? Anybody else have any itchy experience w them?

    • Hi Naomi. They certainly sound like the same kind of jelly balls. Nobody seems to have complained of a rash on here so far, but this post gets a lot of visitors, so maybe you’ll get some feedback on that. Hope your son is better soon!

    • Looks like the ones you saw were microscopic jellyfish. I’ve just seen them on the news and quite a few kids are coming out in rashes after swimming. Hope your boy is better by now.

  12. On papamoa beach, I saw loads of them in two lines on the beach, as you said more were in the sea. My brother got stung on the foot on the shore but not further into the water. A few I found were pulsating… It was a little creepy.

    • I think , after watching the news tonight, that these little guys were microscopic jellyfish. Naomi reported a rash on her sons skin after swimming with these particular jelly balls, and it looks like a lot of children are getting the same reaction this week.

  13. I’m in the outer banks in North Carolina and the same things are in the water here. I have been coming here for 25yrs and never seen anything like it.

    • It does seem to be a rare occurrence, though most of this post’s visitors are from the US, and quite a few in New Zealand. I haven’t seen any since that first time a few years ago.

  14. I’m at Ocean City, Maryland this week and I’ve found the beach lined with millions of these things. I found it so weird! I assumed they were Moon Jellyfish but later after searching the web, found this page, and I definitely think they are sea gooseberries or salps now. As one person said earlier, it seems like they are so thick in some parts, you could almost walk on them in the water. Whenever I swim the brush against your arms and legs, and upon exiting the water, I’ve found them stuck to my legs. I read salps were common on the Western coast but Maryland is on the East! Bizarre. I want to know a definite answer as to what these things are.

    • Forgot to mention I’ve gone to Ocean City my whole life, but this is the first time this has happened when I am there. Global warming? o.o

  15. We were in Ocean City Maryland yesterday, Tuesday July 5th and noticed them in the water, millions of them. You could literally scoop up handfuls at a time. When the waves you crash against you, you can feel them hitting your legs. Glad I now know what they are!

  16. Ive been diving in koh tao, thailand for the past 2 weeks. After some bad weather and choppy seas (thanks to the tail end of a typhoon) i went out today and there were thousands of the jellies – after reading the posts i believe they are salps. You could pick up handfuls at a time at the surface and this continued for almost 2 meters as we descended! Must admit it didnt feel great to swim through. Thanks for clearing up the mystery!!

  17. We have encounter these clear jelly balls off Fraser Island in Australia today. No reports of stings or rashes. It did create lots of conversation hence finding your blog. Ours were very small clear strands as well as some clear balls.

    • Thanks for that, Ricgard. I wonder if they need certain conditions to thrive. When I have time, I’ll look back at the comments and see if there are any patterns.

  18. Went to Destin florida a couple of weeks ago for vacation and they was everywhere! My kids said they was stinging. One went down my daughters swim top and she was stung repeatedly but nothing major. And they did say it was itchy afterwards. We had arrived after a tropical storm had hit the Atlantic side pretty hard and it had stirred the water up. I’m guessing these things came in after the storm.

    • Thanks Joshua. I’m still getting traffic from all over the world. One day I’ll pull it all together and see if there is some kind of pattern. Weird that they were stinging. I’ve had some comments on allergic skin reactions but not stings. The ones I swam with seemed completely harmless but maybe they only sting when trapped? Hhmmm.

  19. Hi there, great thread with some interesting observations from around the world.

    I think there are a few different species, bits of species and various stages of life cycles being described here. Jelly is a pretty broad description and is used by lots of marine animals, and even some seaweeds have slime filled sac-like growths.

    Definitely some descriptions match the smaller, cylindrical salps which wash up in their millions.

    It might also be worth taking a look at Phylum Ctenophora, the Comb jellies. They can become very numerous in coastal lagoons and sheltered areas. Some descriptions sound like it could be these.

    Also, for larger jelly bits of irregular size and shape, and maybe a wash up after a storm, then my best guess would be pieces of larger jellies like Moon jellies. It isn’t the strongest of body building materials. Also there could be some scraps left after they have been predated upon.

    Then you have things like eggs as well…

    Happy beach combing everyone.

  20. These small blobs of jelly were washed up on the beach by the Whangamata wharf yesterday, the wet sand was thick with them. Didn’t go back in water as we weren’t sure if they were stingers.

  21. Hey we found these at Kawana Beach on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. They seem to be clear gel sacs with a small fibrous ball inside them.

    • Yes – quite small? About the size of chickpea? There seemed to be a centre to ours – like a grape pip from what I remember. Odd things. Just so many of them. Thanks Tj 😊

  22. We found them in Cable Bay NZ today. Creepy!! Got a fright and dashed out of the water to find two of them still on me!

  23. Got some photos of some today in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand Te Angiangi Marine Reserve on Feb. 17, 2018. Had thought they were snail eggs at first since I knew this was the type of material they laid their eggs in. Looking at my photos though, definitely little blue or purple things in each blob that almost look like a shape of a jellyfish but sounds like a salp. Have very close up photos of them but can’t appear to share on here. Will probably do a post about it soon. Let me know if you want the pictures.

    Weather-wise, that huge storm just hit Fiji and is on the way here (leftovers of it, at least). Last time we were at this reserve we did see a few man o war jellyfish washed up which was maybe a month ago or less. Not sure if there’s a connection to any of that though!

    • Steph, that’s great! Thank you so much. If you do a post let me know and I’ll add a link from this one. So many people seem to be finding the salp and searching for more information.

      Interesting about the jellyfish. Looking forward to heading up to the beaches after the storm. There are always unusual thing to find. I still have my shipwreck shoe – all cobbled underneath – that turned up in the middle of a pile of seaweed!

      • Wow that IS cool! Yeah, we’ll have to go out as well. Oddly enough, the storm is supposed to hit the west coast of NZ and not the east which is where I am. I’m sure something must turn up though…maybe we’ll head out next weekend. I’ll send you a link when I post it. Thank you!

  24. Hi Jo, managed to do a post on those today which is here:
    I want to look through your blog more and checked your About page…where are you from? I’m from Texas…wondering if you’re American? I’ve been to Kerikeri, I believe…if that was in BOI. Ahh wait, I was in Paihia…stayed longer than anticipated…it was nice. I’ll look through your posts later! I’m following you as well 😉

    • Hi Stephanie – I’ll go and have good look at yours too. Thanks for the link. I’m from Yorkshire, UK, so the weather here in Kerikeri is pretty different to what I’m used to. There you go… I must be English cos I’m already talking about the weather 😀. Texas! Wow! How long have you been over here?

      • I’ve been here about 3 1/2 years now. I have trouble with the winters…I’m a tropical kinda girl…thrive in the heat. I don’t like the hibernation effect. However, we did live on the South Island and moved to NI last year so it feels much better! Enjoying your blog, btw! Thanks for posting the link here.

  25. My husband went surfing yesterday and it was like swimming in sago. The water was full of these little jelly balls. This was at Whangamata beach in south coromandel.

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