Are jellyfish hijacking the world’s oceans? Scientists have been asking themselves this question for quite some time. However, a report recently published in the journalBioSciencereveals that a new group of scientists is trying to answer this question.
The report was compiled by the Global Jelly Fish Group.Accordingto the group’s Facebook page, the Global Jelly Fish Group seeks to understand the impacts of “jellyfish blooms” around the world. The Global Jelly Fish Group, which is sponsored by the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS), looks at the impact of “jellyfish blooms” on the environment and society.
“Clearly, there are areas where jellyfish have increased — the situation with the Giant Jellyfish in Japan is a classic example,” said Rob Condon, the study’s lead researcher and a marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab,according to Science Daily. “But there are also areas where jellyfish have decreased, or fluctuate over the decadal periods,” posited Mr. Condon.
If jellyfish are hijacking the world’s oceans, the impact could be devastating on the tourism and fishing industries.
“There are major consequences for getting the answer correct for tourism, fisheries and management decisions as they relate to climate change and changing ocean environments,”said Carlos Duarte, of the University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute and the Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados in Spain.
“The important aspect about our synthesis is that we will be able to support the current paradigm with hard scientific data rather than speculation,” Mr. Duarte added.
In order to determine jellyfish numbers in the world’s oceans, the researchers have created the Jellyfish Database Initiative (JEDI). JEDI is a database project that has over 500,000 data points from jellyfish populations around the globe. The 500,000 data points include jellyfish populations as far back as 1790.
The report notes that while “media and scientific reports of massive numbers of jellyfish may be newsworthy, they should not be misinterpreted as an indication that gelatinous zooplankton abundance has deviated from their typical ranges.”
The Global Jelly Fish Group hopes to examine why the media, scientists and others believe that the jellyfish are hijacking the world’s oceans. By studying the JEDI, the group believes that they can determine whether “jellyfish blooms” are a result of human activity or whether humans are becoming more aware of jellyfish populations because of their interaction with human populations.
“This is the first time an undertaking of this size on the global scale has been attempted, but it is important to know whether jellyfish blooms are human-induced or arise from natural circumstances,” professed Mr. Condon. “The more we know, the better we can manage oceanic ecosystems or respond accurately to future effects of climate change,” added the marine scientist.
“The scientific data exists to answer this question, but it is fragmented in analysis,” added Mr. Condon.