Claim: Global Warming will cause a deadly Jellyfish Invasion

Box jellyfish warning signpost at a Cape Tribulation beach in Queensland, Australia

It is claimed that climate change will cause deadly Irukandji and Box Jellyfish to invade Sydney Harbour – data shows otherwise

Story submitted by Eric Worrall

The Daily Telegraph warns that deadly Box Jellyfish and Irukandji jellyfish will invade the popular beaches of Sydney Harbour, if we don’t mend our wicked climate ways.

According to the article, which reads like a “B” grade horror movie, Macquarie University’s Professor Rob Harcourt claims that warmer currents are enabling more deadly tropical species to survive further south. 

“Every year scientists from Sydney Institute of Marine Science are taking a tally of new visitors to Sydney waters,’’ he said. “Like Nemo and his friends, the turtle ‘dudes’, lots of tropical animals travel down the east coast each year being swept along in the East Australian Current (EAC).”

Box jellyfish have been blamed for 64 deaths (ever) while the tiny irukandji jellyfish killed two people in north Queensland in 2002.
As someone who regularly swims in the Coral Sea, one of the places where these nasties live, I would like to point out that the risk of being killed by a Box Jellyfish or Irukandji is somewhat less than the risk of being killed in a car accident, or the risk of being struck by lightning.

But a story about killer jellyfish probably sells more newspapers, than a story about yet another irresponsible drunk.

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UPDATE: (by Anthony)

A check of the range for the Box Jellyfish shows it nowhere close to Sydney:

boxjellyfish_range

Source of base map: http://oceana.org/en/explore/marine-wildlife/box-jellyfish

The distance to the most southern point in the range from about North of Townsville (near the Cape Tribulation warning sign at the head of this post) to Sydney is over 1000 miles. It seems the claim of migration is more than a bit of a stretch.

Here is a plot of the average water temperature of Bondi Beach in Sydney:

Bondi-Beach[1]

Source: http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Bondi-Beach/seatemp

Note the extreme barely breaks 25°C (77F)

And the science says otherwise. From Stingeradvisor.com

 

Box jelly and Irukandji jellyfishes are generally reported at water temperatures above 26°C.

In laboratory conditions, 1-2° warming results in stressed animals that do not recover; animals generally deteriorate rapidly and expire if not maintained in cool water.

Cooler water retains more dissolved oxygen, allowing animals to absorb it with less energy expenditure; cubozoans, with a higher metabolism than most other jellyfishes, and thus higher oxygen demand, probably have a narrow range of tolerance and low adaptational potential. Although the jellyfish are able to swim well, and thus navigate in and out of variable local conditions, the populations are nonetheless tied to regions where their polyps can survive; cubozoan species and populations typically have extremely narrow distributions, suggesting that they are unlikely to adapt easily to alternative habitats if conditions were to become intolerable.

 

Summary of published conclusions: Most authors have concluded that the jellyfish situation is likely to worsen in coming years, as human activities continue to impact on marine environments and other species are affected, opening up niches for jellyfish.

 

BOTTOM LINE: It seems likely that non-thermal perturbations are likely to result in increased jellyfish numbers, whereas thermal perturbations are likely to have detrimental effects on box jellyfish and Irukandji populations

 

 

 

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59 thoughts on “Claim: Global Warming will cause a deadly Jellyfish Invasion

  1. that makes 31?
    I never saw or suffered at the hands of the bogeyman despite all of Grandma’s dire warnings…the Tooth Fairy however………

  2. I’ve been hearing the same threats regarding Jellyfish and, this time, the Mediterrean Sea, for decades already. However the truth behind it is, some years there are many, some other years there are few, and this happens no matter the sea temperature. IMO it’s all more likely related to the ammount of overfishing of the Jellyfish’s food/predators than to climate. But that’s a guess only.

  3. From the post:

    (…) I would like to point out that the risk of being killed by a Box Jellyfish or Irukandji is somewhat less than the risk of being killed in a car accident, or the risk of being struck by lightning.

    Here in central Pennsylvania where the roads in winter are frequently crappy, I put the risk of being killed in a car accident as significantly greater than being struck by lightning, even when I’m the driver, and even when I’m not surrounded by lunatic alleged drivers. And after a tenth-second difference between getting T-boned in the passenger front door of my 1982 LTD Crown Victoria and instead getting hit square on the front tire by an “impaired driver”, I’d put it at many orders of magnitude greater.

  4. Periodically some in need of a publication jump on the climate change gravy train to portray booms in jellyfish as an omen of developing ecological chaos. But the most recent research shows that jellyfish around the world also undergo approximate 20-year cycles of boom and bust. There was a similar rise in jellyfish in the northern hemisphere that clogged both fishermen’s nets and the intake pipes that cooled power plants during the PDO’s last cool phase. These blooms raised such concerns that the US government passed the Jellyfish Control Act of 1966 to “control or eliminate” troublesome jellyfish. Now ocean researchers write, “The realization that jellyfish populations have been pulsing globally at decadal scales should lead to a broadening of the search for the drivers of change.”

    Read Condon, et al., (2012) Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1210920110

  5. I do accept the likelihood that human activities, like over-fishing and pollution run-offs (China’s rivers), are leading to detrimental effects on the marine food chains, with outcomes such as more jellyfish.
    But can we honestly attribute it to hypothetical man-made climate warming? Likely not.

  6. “But a story about killer jellyfish probably sells more newspapers, than a story about yet another irresponsible drunk.”

    Yes, but you see, Climate Change will also cause more irresponsible drunkenness.

  7. It’s true! I saw the jellyfish. Elvis is breeding them at Jimmy Hoffa’s place. They’re on the way. They’ll arrive at the same time that the killer bees arrive. Not to worry, I’m providing detailed plans of a shelter you can build out of the most abundant building material on earth. The manuscripts of failed global warming predictions. The supply of material is so vast that we could build shelters for everyone in Western Europe using only James Hansen’s predictions. Gotta go, we’re sailing through the ice free Northwest Passage today. I hope we don’t get jammed in by that floating white stuff and those huge white rocks again. What is that stuff? /sarc

  8. So scary, right?

    Actually, I suspect the risk being killed by one of these jelly fish is considerably less that the risk of choking to death on a serving of Jell-o.

  9. A C Osborn says:
    That can’t be true as they have told us in the UK that they are all coming here.

    The poisonous jellyfish already arrived. And they are currently serving in the House Of Commons.

  10. Not to worry, the crocs eat the sharks that eat the jellys. It is easier to see a croc than a jelly, problem solved.

  11. Hey, I’ve been stung by a jellyfish in Sydney! Where do I apply for climate refugee status?
    (Alas, it was only a common bluebottle jellyfish, so I can only hope for temporary status.)

  12. I’m in Newcastle, about 150km north of Sydney.
    If anyone thinks that the water around here is any warmer than it was 30-40 years ago, they are fooling themselves !!

  13. This year on the north side of Solway Firth there have been far fewer jellyfish than during the last three years.
    If you would like to send me some money, well, lots of money, I am sure I can blame this change on anything you would like me to blame it on.

  14. A consensus of scientists agree that global warming will attract hostile alien invaders, who will find the earths warming termperature and high CO2 concentration at an uncertain point in the certain future, perfect for their needs.

    Act now or face certain invasion! Act now!

    Well that was my pitch for the next climate fear inducing science fiction B movie, but maybe I’ll go with the jelly fish…

  15. Congratulations, Eric on a good article.
    Do you have a graph of the summer temperatures at Bondi Beach over a period of years or preferably decades?

  16. Wait till they start coming out of the water and taking people’s jobs and land – then you’ll all be sorry. I’m off inland, how high can these things climb?

  17. OldSeaDog says: “This year on the north side of Solway Firth there have been far fewer jellyfish than during the last three years.”

    Well, there you have another extreme event–”Solway.Min_Jellyfish”. Climate Change has probably produced the lowest jellyfish count there in millennia! Just goes to show.

  18. The Bondi beach temperature is misleading as it is a local reading near the shore, influenced by the midday sun and water passing over warmer sand. If you measure the temperature just off the coast it will barely exceed 22 degrees C in summer.

  19. And if they do invade, what does he propose doing about it? Scoop them up? Is he aware of how jellyfish reproduce?

  20. The story is just another shovel full on the ever growing pile.
    But I am extremely disappointed that lake Hume in southern NSW was left out of this latest scare.
    We could do with the free tourism advertising.
    Maybe we could put out a story about our ” lochness type monster” thats been in the lake for thousands of years.

  21. Oz is a damn B-movie nightmare of creatures to begin with. Start with the poison spur of the male platypus, add in the Sydney Funnel Web spider, and then toss in the deadly jellies the size of your little fingernail that can slip through a half-inch fishnet and kill you right on the beach, and what’s left for the imagination?

    Oh yeah, they don’t have Monolith Monsters. That we know of.

  22. Sorry but i have to point out the range is much larger than that, we get them occasionally at beaches in christchurchnew zealand and the water is never 26 degrees. They also turn up on the gold coast and down to sydney, as their air sacs allow the box jelly fish or blue bottles as we refer to them to be blown along by the wind so they can often be blown much further south with the right weather conditions. I have no data, only personnel experiance!

  23. tumpy:
    You’re partly right but mostly wrong. Box jellyfish and irrukandji do indeed extend further down the Queensland coast (a child died from box jellyfish sting at Gladstone many years ago), and irrukandji are tiny and only recently discovered so findings further south as far as Fraser Island and possibly the Gold Coast are to be expected. But box jellyfish are nothing like blue bottles or any other sort of jelly fish.. They are not blown by wind but move by swimming, so they prefer calm still water when they move close to shore to catch tiny fish, which is when humans come into contact with them. They can have a body as big as a large letter box and have tentacles several metres long. Another difference: they don’t just give a painful sting, they are deadly if the stung area is large enough. You’ll know about if you get hit. Just don’t expect them in Sydney anytime soon. For a start, they don’t like surf.

  24. tumpy

    I agree in principle, but have to agree with Ken Stewart. Box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) don’t have that big a body, esp when compared with bluebottles, which can be huge. Irukandji are even smaller. I grew up in Mackay, in North Queensland. While I was at high school, a little girl was killed by a box jellyfish at Black’s Beach nr Mackay. A local doctor reckoned that if he had been standing at the surfline with a loaded syringe of anti-venine in his hand, he wouldn’t have been able to save her. That poor little girl must have died an horrific, painful death. BUT it was also an astronomically rare event. For the CAGW alarmists to beat up the spread of jellyfish deaths as though it was common and inevitable is hugely insulting and disgusting.

  25. Tumpy ,

    Blue bottles aren’t box jellyfish.

    Box jellyfish, including irukandji, are colourless and are generally restricted to northern Australia and the seas of South-East Asia.

    Bluebottle jellyfish [aka Portuguese Man o' War] occur throughout the tropics and warm temperate zones of the world. They are propelled by a gas bladder that acts as a sail.
    A sting from a bluebottle is painful but not fatal. Many people are stung on surf beaches when bluebottles drift close to shore and are broken up in the waves.

    Not all box jellyfish are deadly but Chironex fleckeri, also known as the sea wasp, has 24 eyes, 4 brains, 60 anal regions [?] and enough venom to kill 60 people.

    People who swim in waters where they occur are advised to wear stinger suits. Before the suits were developed lifesavers wore panty hose to protect themselves.

    Most southern Australians hope these little blighters stay up north.

  26. Leigh says:
    Maybe we could put out a story about our ” lochness type monster” thats been in the lake for thousands of years.

    Umm, Leigh.. I’m not sure they built concrete dams that long ago,

    ….almost certainly not in Australia ! :-)

  27. mojo says:
    August 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm
    And if they do invade, what does he propose doing about it? Scoop them up? Is he aware of how jellyfish reproduce?

    Do to them what we did to the Killer Tomatoes.

  28. So, when is ET & his pals gonna arrive to tick us all off for pouring loads of CO2 into the atmosphere?

    We get this story every year on the Beeb UK South-West regional news programme. It’s the usual suspects, Exeter & or Plymouth University looking for some funding. Camera films stock video of jelly fish in the sea, & relates it to a local fisherman who swears he’s never seen anything like it in all his 30 years of fishing! Yet no mention is made of the AMO phasing warm & cool over about 30-35 years! It’s ALWAYS Climate Change, with the express implication that Humans are responsible!

  29. “… if we don’t mend our wicked climate ways.

    According to the article, which reads like a “B” grade horror movie, Macquarie University’s Professor Rob Harcourt claims that warmer currents are enabling more deadly tropical species to survive further south. “

    What about further north? where there is freshwater jellyfish.

    http://www.krem.com/home/Jellyfish-surprise-Newman-Lake-residents–270405871.html

    Ref: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=1068

    Thanks for the interesting articles and comments.

  30. Remember also that CO2 will support the growth of weeds, thorny plants, and poisonous plants. Never mention wheat or rice.

  31. Yes, l know AndyG55 and we’ve got no jellyfish either.
    But the idea is to never let the truth get in the way of a good fraud.
    Nobody would have noticed if you hadn’t opened your big mouth.LOL.

  32. Nowhere close to Sydney? You should’ve gone to Specsavers denier! I put it at about 2 and half cms at most.

  33. First, “climate change” is always happening. Are they talking about warming or cooling? If they do not indicate this, they are will fully being political and misleading.

    These deadly jellyfish have been slowly moving around the world despite the cooling of the last 12 years. This story is sheer speculation and guesswork, using the assumption that global warming will make everything worse. More propaganda, a nice word for BS.

  34. Cape Tribulation is north of Cairns. I grew up in Cairns and I can assure you that box jellyfish deaths have occurred in Cairns. In the 1960s and 70s there was a campaign to alert residents to the dangers. Even if a sting doesnt kill you it is off the scale painful. Residents stay out of the ocean in the summer months, or wear full length stinger suits. Box jellyfish have been found (very rarely) as far south as Town of 1770. Still… oh about 1600km north of Sydney.

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