Sea butterflies wash up on NC beaches, cause pain for beachgoers

North Carolina news

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A trip to the Crystal Coast is becoming a pain for some beachgoers. We’re not talking about sunburns or traffic.

The pain is coming from something with a deceptively harmless name – sea butterflies. They do not have wings, but they do have fins.

Sea butterflies collected at Emerald Isle beaches.

Sea butterflies are a type of snail normally found in warmer Caribbean waters. They are not toxic, but they can cause mild irritation to the skin.

“We noticed at the point we started being stung by these little shards of glass,” said Joe Tarallo. He was visiting the Crystal Coast this weekend with friends, but it quickly turned into a painful experience.

They didn’t realize they were encountering sea butterflies. When in the water, the fiber-glass sea creatures started sticking to their swimsuits.

“We decided to get out of the water because it was hurting,” Tarallo.

Emerald Isle Ocean Rescue Coordinator William Matthias say the lack of currents and wind are allowing these creatures to show up in our area. Firefighters say this is the first time in three to five years they’ve seen this many our coast.

“I know some of the studies online show that due to the tropics heating up, and getting stirred up,” said Matthias.

It’s Tarallo’s first experience with them, but he says it won’t keep him from future visits — this just fits in with the unusual year.

“It’s just adds to the 2020 experience,” Tarallo.

The best treatment is to rinse with fresh water and change your clothes after the beach.

The Emerald Isle Fire Department is displaying purple flags to make people aware of the sea butterflies.

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