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Chuang, Timothy Michael T.

Silent Killers: The Danger and Marine Domination of Jellyfish

Jellyfish are ancient species of the Cambrian era that have evolved to a considerable extent in the
marine environment. Contrary to popular belief that jellyfish are merely colorful fascinating creatures
displayed in large saltwater aquariums, these beasts are prehistoric assassins that have long dominated the
underwater realm. They have developed highly advanced genetic traits and defense mechanisms and are
now on the brink of overpopulation. The research will focus on the effect of this phenomenon to the

10ecosystem and how it is shifting some elements of the food chain. It does not only pose a serious threat to
abiotic and biotic elements in its niche: but it also poses a threat to human beings.

Recent issues that jellyfish numbers are growing have triggered discussions regarding probable
triggers such as climate change, excessive fishing, eutrophication and invasions. While discussions are
15numerous, proof for continual growth is inadequate. Examinations of numerous large scale (8 to 100 year)
patterns in jellyfish numbers illustrate that their great quantity fluctuates with climate, usually at decadal
scales. Accounts of human complications with jellyfish have elevated and have grabbed the attention of
the public. Such challenges come primarily from jellyfish stinging swimmers and restricting fishing,
aquaculture and electric plant projects. They are also responsible for some fish kills and poisoning. How
20can man cope with this situation? No extensive research has been performed on jellyfish until recently,
and the findings continue to shock biologists.

It will be discussed in this paper that gelatinous predators have crucial environmental influences
that are regarded as being damaging to human pursuits. They consume zooplankton and may also
25decrease and alter zooplankton populations; consequently, they could cut down food accessible to fish.

This argument will likely end in debates regarding government funding and the consequences that
man may face if these creatures continue to proliferate. Also the fisheries and marine corporations could
regulate the harvest of the predatory species of the jellyfish such as shark, swordfish, and sea turtles. Until
30this environmental issue is resolved, mankind would have to brace itself for blow that may change the
course of the ecosystem permanently.

This research could motivate the citizens of affected areas to act against the spread of harmful
jellyfish. More and more people should become cautious when visiting beaches or diving in the open
35ocean thus reducing jellyfish related cases both locally and worldwide. The human populace depends on
saltwater as well as freshwater fish for consumption and a reduction in the jellyfish population could
mean healthier fish and less fish kills. This research could also contribute to the country by informing the
government about power plant clogging due to jellyfish overpopulation so that blackouts like that of 1999
could be avoided.
In this paper, we look at current situations where jellyfish blossoms have accelerated, identify the
issues jellyfish directly trigger for people, and display how a variety of human routines may boost pelagic
jellyfish populations. We concentrate on types for which aspects adding to the blossoms have already
been examined or deduced. Awareness regarding jellyfish blooms is also a concern that will be focused in
45this paper. The government for instance should be aware of the danger of jellyfish overpopulation and
make an effort to minimize the effects that they have been causing to various countries around the world.
We evaluate these subject areas on an international level and provide details as thorough as possible.

Is the Jellyfish Population Really Increasing?


The scarcity of research data makes it difficult to draw statements on the status of jellyfish
population growth. Most data show a variation in jellyfish population size alongside with climatic shifts
and water temperature changes (Purcell 2005). Perhaps the most reliable signal that jellyfish blooms have
increased are the reports of problems caused by this overpopulation. An example would be the dramatic
increase of Aurelia aurita populations in Japan in the 1980s. In fact, 65% percent of the fishermen

55surveyed have noticed an increase in its growth. The giant jellyfish Nemopilema nomurai (up to 2 meters
in diameter and 200kg in mass) have caused a massive impact in Asian waters. Jellyfish stings, fishing
interferences, and power plant blockages due to jellyfish blooms have increased in Japan in the recent


Around the world, reports of jellyfish population increase have been reported as well. Since 1990,
jellyfish have affected fisheries in China and the Yellow Seas and these are often attached to a decrease in
fish catch. An inverse relationship between jellyfish and fish population is displayed. In northern
Benguela, there have had been a decrease in anchovy and sardine catch after 1988 as compared to during
1975 to 1988 and large jellyfish populations of Chrysaora hysoscella and Aequorea forskalea have now

65invaded the waters. Aside from affecting fisheries, jellyfish are also the cause of blocked water pipes of
power plants and mining companies. Jellyfish have bloomed in the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and
France since 1990s. Crambionella orsini in the Middle East have been correlated to power and water
purifying plants since 2000.


It is still premature to conclude whether the recent jellyfish blooms would remain constant or
fluctuate with climate and temperature changes. Environmental deterioration such as global warming is
the cause of the jellyfish growth, huge jellyfish populations may remain.

Why Are Jellyfish Populations Increasing?

Human activities that cause variations that occur in coastal waters due to could greatly enhance
75the growth of jellyfish populations. The fact that these are all initiated by humans and not natural
occurrences means that there is a possibility for authoritative regulation and control. A number of authors
investigated on how these variations could affect blooms. These include eutrophication, climate change,
aquaculture, fishing, and construction and an overlapping or combination of these factors.


Researches have been correlating existing fluctuating data to the climatic variables that have been
shown to have a relationship. Most of medium temperature species (18 out of 24) have been observed to
have a considerable increase in number. The Seto Inland Sea and the Yellow Sea for example, have
experienced N. nomurai blooms likely due to the change in temperature to warm. Their numbers are
expected to rise considering the global temperature is expected to rise by 0.2 degrees Celsius in the next 2

85decades. The C. melanaster species found in the Bering Sea increased in population most dramatically in
1990 when further warming in the waters took place.

Eutrophication is one of the worlds leading pollution problems. One of its effects is an increase
in nutrient concentrations which encourages more algae growth and thus a higher biomass. This means
90there will be more food for polyps and nutrients for asexual reproduction. Eutrophication has been
speculated to be a result of human activities such as agricultural developments which increase the nitrate
concentrations. Mar Menor, Spain is one example where the levels have increased by 10 times. This has
affected the blooms of Cotylorhiza tuberculata and Rhizostoma pulmo since 1993.


Nutrient enrichment may cause the leaning of the ecological structure towards a microplanktonbased food chain which jellyfish thrive on. It reduces the physical (body) size of the zooplanktons and
therefore, makes the plankton easier for jellyfish to consume. On the other hand, this could be dangerous
for fish which prefer zooplanktons. Their difference with jellyfish is that they are visual predators and
prefer larger prey unlike jellyfish which are not visual and consume both small and large sized prey.

100Aurelia aurita jellyfish seem to be the most capable of thriving in a eutrophic niche. Eutrophication is
associated with low oxygen levels specifically at the bottom of waters. Although many fish often die in
such waters, many jellyfish and their polyps are tolerant to low oxygen levels. Eutrophication reduces the
clarity in the water and thus disabling light penetration. This may benefit once again jellyfish over fish.
Since fish are visual feeders, the lack of light could affect their vision and as a result, decrease their
105chances of finding prey. Jellyfish are non-visual and would not be greatly affected by this phenomenon.

Fishing is another reason for jellyfish overpopulation. Gelatinous species are consumed by many
types of fish (salmon Onorhynchus keta, butterfish Peprilus triacanthus, spiny dogfish Squalas
acanthias) and since fishing reduces the number of predators in the oceans, the jellyfish would naturally
110proliferate. For example, fishing for forage fish species increased the amount of Nanomia cara in the Gulf
of Maine due to the lack of zooplanktivorous (zooplankton eating) fish. Overfishing is a severe problem
that could not only affect jellyfish growth but also alter the ladder of the food pyramid: despite having a
large amount of zooplankton, the fish which are visual feeders, will not be able to utilize their prey.
Instead, jellyfish will begin to thrive and proliferate affecting fisheries and slowing down production.
Aquaculture can indirectly and unintentionally aid jellyfish growth. If too much food is fed to the
fish by farmers or caretakers, this may cause eutrophication where a high concentration of nutrients could
aid jellyfish growth. Food pellets or fish flakes for example can increase the waters mineral content.


Construction that cause marine disturbances such as the building of docks, artificial reefs, oil
platforms, and breakwaters provide grounds for them for growth and development. Many jellyfish blooms
have occurred in areas in semi-enclosed bodies of water. In such areas, eutrophication, fishing, and
construction are present and its effects on jellyfish growth are impossible to eradicate. The construction of
the Three Gorges Dam in the Yangtze River in China completed in 2003. Due the seasonal influx of high

125salinity water, eutrophication became one of its problems. Nemopilema nomurai blooms began to
originate as a result. Changes in water flow in the Black Sea also contributed to the growth of jellyfish in
the area. In Mar Menor, Spain, eutrophication also has been a major problem.

Nuclear and thermal power plants use water from the oceans for cooling and discharge the heated
130water back to the marine environment. This increases the temperature of the waters in the area; thus,
encouraging jellyfish growth. There have been researches that introduce the idea that the Daya Bay NPP
(nuclear power plant) in China extends 8 to 10 km and is a major source of jellyfish blooms. Both China
and Korea have 4 NPPs near the Yellow Sea which are sources of Nemopilema nomurai blooms.


Jellyfish species have been accidentally introduced to various locations around the world. This
has caused economic disruptions and economic losses. The transport of these species has been due to
ballast water (transported water) and from aquarium trades. These new species display large initial
blooms but tend to decline along time. The factors that sustain them are human activity (construction,
aquaculture, fishing, etc.) and the eutrophication occurring in the area. Rhopilema nomadica was first

140spotted in the Mediterranean in the 1970s and is now in all coastlines of the mentioned sea. Mnemiopsis
leidyi, a species spotted in the early 1980s, invaded the Black Sea and crossed to the Sea of Azov,

Mediterranean Sea, and Caspian Sea. These types of blooms occur in areas that are not native to the
invasive jellyfish populations.

145The Effect of Jellyfish Domination to Humans

The first and perhaps most obvious effect of the increase of cnidarian populations are the
increasing number of sting related cases specifically in the past decade. The stings of poisonous jellyfish
can cause extreme discomfort and often medical emergencies for swimmers especially in warm waters
(Fenner & Williamson 1996, Burnett 2001). In the event that these jellyfish occur in large numbers, cases
150for jellyfish stings can reach up to epidemic levels. In coastal tourist areas, warning systems are already in
place to inform the swimmers of possible outbreaks. As human residents and recreational activities
continue to increase along coastal areas, the presence of large jellyfish populations is believed to become
a major problem in the upcoming years. Not only does this affect the residents in the area but tourists as
well. Jellyfish are also known as hazards to fishermen as the number of jellyfish related cases continue to
155elevate. In the Philippines, around 40 people die every year due box jellyfish stings (U.S. National
Science Foundation).1 The most poisonous creature in the planet and it is very widespread in the
Philippines. Whats worse is that there is no anti-venom available in the Philippines for box jellyfish.
Although the local government units (LGUs) of affected coastal regions such as Cebu, Pangasinan,
Quezon Islands, have been observing this phenomenon for decades, still, there is no definite solution.

1 The term box jellyfish refers to Chirodropids such as Chironex fleckeri,It is known to be the most
venomous creature in the planet. The venom is specialized to target the victims heart. When its tentacle
15touches a portion of a victims body, the victim is estimated to die after three minutes. Because of this,
victims seldom escape from the water after being stung ("Poisonous Animals: Box jellyfish, Boxfish,
Deadly sea wasp [Chironex fleckeri]").

One of the major problems of a huge size of the jellyfish populace is its negative effect to fishing
activities. In fact, it is one of the most commonly reported problems in the fishing industry. A huge of
jellyfish can tear the fishing nets and decrease the quality and quantity of the catch. Problems of this sort
have been experienced in Japan since 1990 when Aurelia aurita numbers increased in Seto Inland Sea.
165Since 2002, Nomuras jellyfish bloomed each year and have been a problem to netting fisheries. One of
the reasons why jellyfish cases have not entirely reached the general population is that for some reason,
there are more widespread than recorded in literature and research documents as shown by jellyfishexclusion devices attached to fishing equipment.


Jellyfish are also known to kill cultured fish in pens especially in Scotland and Japan. Small
species or loose tentacles enter the pens and damage the gills of the fish causing suffocation, bleeding,
and/or poisoning. Decapod fish2 have been one of the most common victims of this scenario as observed
in the US and India.


Jellyfish also cause the clogging of pipe screens in water purifying and power plants. This causes
blackouts or plant shutdowns. This is not a new problem in Japan where there are often large populations
of Aurelia aurita near ocean shores. This clogging calls for maintenance and cleaning on a daily basis.
One particular power plant even has a record of the total biomass of jellyfish they are able to clean per
day. Clogging cases can result to emergency situations at NPPs (nuclear power plants) and can cause

180power losses and damage to the livelihood of affected towns and cities. Research on the threats of
jellyfish and possible ways to monitor and detect them has already been started.

202 Any crustacean of the order Decapoda, having five pairs of walking legs, including the crabs, lobsters,
crayfish, prawns, and shrimps. (decapod.)

Long-term Problems
The changes in climate (global warming) which include the decreased ice in the Arctic, changes in ocean
185salinity, wind patterns, and extreme weather frequency and intensity are contributing factors for jellyfish
growth. To understand how these variables affect these gelatinous species, environmental data and climate
indices are needed. A combination of field and laboratory studies is necessary. These environmental
changes affect both benthic (premature) and pelagic (mature) stages of the jellyfish. Basic information
such as the polyp habitat is still unknown for many species. In order for the biologists to gain
190understanding on the factors affecting jellyfish blooms, funding for these research projects is essential.

By 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 46%. Human influences and demands
for the renewable commodities in the marine environment will be increase. More demands for energy will
result to more dam and power plant construction. China, for instance, has 3 NPPs and 4 are under
195construction. Fertilizer use will cause dissolved inorganic nitrogen exports to the oceans and the figures
are expected to double by 2050. Studies on the effects of eutrophication and hypoxia on jellyfish is a
must. Fish production worldwide is expected to double between 1997 and 2020 especially in large nations
such as China and the US where aquaculture take place therefore, implementation of jellyfish populations
should increase. Jellyfish live catch volumes should be a standard in fishery surveys due to the fact that
200they are the sources of the few long-term data on jellyfish research.

In conjunction with a larger human population is increased coastal development. This enhances
polyp settlement and jellyfish growth. Continual transport of marine organisms such as oysters, scallops,
and edible fish can introduce alien jellyfish to once unaffected locations and settlements. Marine fish
205aquaculture has increased especially in Asia in the past few decades. This too can provide habitat and
breeding grounds for jellyfish. Research is needed to reduce polyp development and greater care should

be taken for the transport of marine organisms. A regulation law could perhaps be implemented for such
cases. Many polyps survive marine transport because they naturally enter a dormant stage when
disturbed, irritated, or faced with stress. Given all these information and trends on marine modifications
210and increases in human demands, jellyfish populations are very likely to increase.



Appendix A

(Fenner 136)