The Jellypocalypse is Upon Us
by Gabbie Bailargeon
CNN calls it a “Jellypocalypse” as most beach goers and scientists agree that dangerous jellyfish bloom occurrences have continued to increase each year since the early 2000’s. A jelly bloom occurs when there is a sudden proliferation of jellyfish at a rapid rate, but is usually contained to specific regions. However, not only do studies show that blooms are more frequent but occur in regions that have not experienced large blooms before. A prime example is the trends founds in the extensive records of jelly blooms in the Adriatic Sea claiming that, “cycles are increasing in frequency, and lasting longer.” Worse yet, most scientists believe that Humans are the leading cause for the mass population increase.
Us to Blame
The Mediterranean has experienced significant amounts of jellyfish blooms especially over the last few years, and in a recent report published by Fernando Borea for the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and the United Nations to review titled, “Review of Jellyfish Blooms in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.” It lists “global warming and global overfishing” as major causes for the sudden explosion in the jellyfish population. Humans are responsible for warmer waters and extensive overfishing which have put the oceans out of balance, as the jellies indicate.
The destructive burning of fossil fuels has led to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, however the ocean acts as a sponge absorbing large quantities of carbon dioxide from the air. This creates a more acidic ocean which is harmful to many plant and animal species as they are only adapted to live within a specific pH range. Carbon emissions are said to also be responsible for global climate change – heating up our oceans. Jellyfish among other invertebrates are able to successfully survive in wide temperature and pH ranges.
The report demonstrates how Humans have essentially created the perfect conditions for jellyfish; not only have we elevated their predators, but also their competitors. The first are severely overfished and the latter are sometimes no longer able to survive in their changing environment. Another problem is that more oil rigs means more nursery areas for larval jellies. Jellyfish start out as small polyps that need to attach to a surface until they become full-fledged planktonic jellies that drift about. Dr. Gershwin believes no single factor is to blame, but a combination of “overfishing, warming water, low oxygen and pollution.”
Too Late to Turn Back?
Let it be noted that for centuries there have been such increases in the jellyfish population, usually corresponding to a changing climate. Dr. Gershwin says that the jellyfish population acts as a “flashing red light” signaling that the oceans are unhealthy and unbalanced. Some experts believe it is too late to turn things around for many species, even ocean health as a whole. Others believe that enforcing strict fishing limits and procedures as well as reducing ocean pollution of all kinds will be enough to sustain ocean ecosystems.
What Does This Mean for Tourists and Businesses?
Industries that have plants near the coastline often experience jellyfish induced problems during the summer. In Israel, jellyfish blooms occur during the summer months and then clog plumbing lines of power plants. The Nomura jellyfish of Japan have become quite the nuisance as these larger than life jellies invade docks throughout Japan. The Nomura invade the waters and landings that fisherman use on a daily basis thus disrupting business.
In Hawaii during the summer of 2013, tourist’s reports state that “800 or 1,000 people have been stung in a day.” Jellyfish are found in every ocean at all depths, so no region is excluded from suffering the consequences of decades of careless actions. Beach goers should expect to see more washed up jellies in the upcoming summers, in addition to increased stings.
Next time you visit the beach, beware the jellies!
Gabbie is a current high school student who has always been a nature and travel enthusiast. She has a passion for marine biology and conservation, and plans on pursuing a marine biology degree.
Cripps, Karla. “Jellyfish taking over oceans, experts warn.” CNN. Cable News Network, 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/04/travel/jellyfish-taking-over-oceans/>.
SUBBARAMAN, NIDHI . “The jellyfish are coming! Experts tangle with exploding population – NBC News.” NBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/jellyfish-are-coming-experts-tangle-exploding-population-f8C11352067>.