Aquaculture: Jellyfish Dominate as Predators Disappear

By Abigail Tucker
Smithsonian Magazine

As the world’s oceans are degraded, will they be dominated by jellyfish? Boneless, bloodless and brainless, they thrive in warming oceans and dead zones, unaffected by CO2, spewing 45,000 eggs a day. A bourgeoning enterprise capitalizes on jelly blooms, as global fisheries collapse from over-harvesting, reports Abigail Tucker.

Northeast Pacific sea nettles. (Image by John Lee)

Jellyfish: The Next King of the Sea

On the night of December 10, 1999, the Philippine island of Luzon, home to the capital, Manila, and some 40 million people, abruptly lost power, sparking fears that a long-rumored military coup d’état was underway. Malls full of Christmas shoppers plunged into darkness. Holiday parties ground to a halt. President Joseph Estrada, meeting with senators at the time, endured a tense ten minutes before a generator restored the lights, while the public remained in the dark until the cause of the crisis was announced, and dealt with, the next day. Disgruntled generals had not engineered the blackout. It was wrought by jellyfish. Some 50 dump trucks’ worth had been sucked into the cooling pipes of a coal-fired power plant, causing a cascading power failure. “Here we are at the dawn of a new millennium, in the age of cyberspace,” fumed an editorial in the Philippine Star, “and we are at the mercy of jellyfish.”

A decade later, the predicament seems only to have worsened. All around the world, jellyfish are behaving badly—reproducing in astonishing numbers and congregating where they’ve supposedly never been seen before. Jellyfish have halted seafloor diamond mining off the coast of Namibia by gumming up sediment-removal systems. Jellies scarf so much food in the Caspian Sea they’re contributing to the commercial extinction of beluga sturgeon—the source of fine caviar. In 2007, mauve stinger jellyfish stung and asphyxiated more than 100,000 farmed salmon off the coast of Ireland as aquaculturists on a boat watched in horror. The jelly swarm reportedly was 35 feet deep and covered ten square miles.

Nightmarish accounts of “Jellyfish Gone Wild,” as a 2008 National Science Foundation report called the phenomenon, stretch from the fjords of Norway to the resorts of Thailand. By clogging cooling equipment, jellies have shut down nuclear power plants in several countries; they partially disabled the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan four years ago. In 2005, jellies struck the Philippines again, this time incapacitating 127 police officers who had waded chest-deep in seawater during a counterterrorism exercise, apparently oblivious to the more imminent threat. (Dozens were hospitalized.) This past fall, a ten-ton fishing trawler off the coast of Japan capsized and sank while hauling in a netful of 450-pound Nomura’s jellies.

Read full post at Smithsonian Magazine

11 responses to “Aquaculture: Jellyfish Dominate as Predators Disappear

  1. wow, really informative, and fascinating.
    I read a new food release where they plan to use jellyfish for some supplement..cant remember, but I will post if I came across it again.
    the Irikanji? jellyfish in Aus is only thumbnail sized but very very painful and can kill fast too.
    as to eating them..nope!
    but using them to feed fish, or as fertilizer sounds good to me 🙂

    • lol, I’m such a carnivore; i can’t wait to try them.

      yeah, a friend sent this article to me – over 3,500 words! But so fascinating and well written; and she uses quite a bit of humor. I love her style… like this:

      “The mouth doubles as an anus. (Jellies are also brainless, ‘so they don’t have to contemplate that,’ one jelly specialist says.)”

      And this:

      “We are en route to what Widmer has modestly named the Widmer Site…”

  2. Giant dead jellyfish stings 150 people on New Hampshire beach

    A MASSIVE dead jellyfish – which broke into pieces after officials tried to remove it from the water – was responsible for 150 people being stung at a New Hampshire beach today.
    The Boston Globe said most of the people stung at Wallis Sands State Park located on the Atlantic Ocean in the town of Rye, New Hampshire were children and five were sent to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

    Rye Fire Lieutenant Charles Gallant said earlier in the day Park officials tried to remove the jellyfish, described as being about 23 kilograms and the size of a turkey platter or trash can lid, but it broke up into a number of pieces.

    He said lifeguards at the beach treated the majority of people who were stung with vinegar and baking soda.

    Lieutenant Gallant said it was rare for the area to experience just one jellyfish sting, let alone 150.

    “At least for us, they’re not very common,” he told the Globe.

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  4. Pingback: Jellyfish Force Shutdown of Four Nuclear Reactors Around the Globe | COTO Report

  5. that was a great read from start to finish. I’ve become interested in the jellyfish situation in recent times as I sense there’s an opportunity to tap into this resource as a feedstock for aquaculture – in fact it was googling jellyfish flesh that steered me here. I guess lots of research will be needed to establish the viability of using caught jellyfish to feed fish in aquaculture. Though the underlying problems like climate change and fertilizer run off will definitely still need to be addressed.

  6. Oj now thats using your noggin:-)
    very good idea, I know they do sell them dried OS I suspect the loss due to water would be pretty high, but when theres gazillions of the things..fair game.
    the possible toxins? in some species..may be an issue?

  7. ps avoid the glow in the dark variety from Japanese waters too.

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