What jellyfish and tornadoes have in common

Jellyfish on the rise: UBC study

Sea Nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) Jellyfish...
Sea Nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) Jellyfish in captivity in the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jellyfish are increasing in the majority of the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to the first global study of jellyfish abundance by University of British Columbia researchers.

In a study published in this month’s edition of the journal Hydrobiologia, UBC scientists examined data for numerous species of jellyfish for 45 of the world’s 66 Large Marine Ecosystems. They found increasing jellyfish populations in 62 per cent of the regions analyzed, including East Asia, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Northeast U.S. Shelf, Hawaii, and Antarctica.

“There has been anecdotal evidence that jellyfish were on the rise in recent decades, but there hasn’t been a global study that gathered together all the existing data until now,” says Lucas Brotz, a PhD student with the Sea Around Us Project at UBC and lead author of the study.

“Our study confirms these observations scientifically after analysis of available information from 1950 to the present for more than 138 different jellyfish populations around the world.”

Jellyfish directly interfere with many human activities – by stinging swimmers, clogging intakes of power plants, and interfering with fishing. Some species of jellyfish are now a food source in some parts of the world.

“By combining published scientific data with other unpublished data and observations, we could make this study truly global – and offer the best available scientific estimate of a phenomenon that has been widely discussed,” says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project and co-author of the study. “We can also see that the places where we see rising numbers of jellyfish are often areas heavily impacted by humans, through pollution, overfishing, and warming waters.”

Pauly adds that increasing anecdotal reports of jellyfish abundance may have resulted from an expansion of human activities in marine habitats, so the study also provides a concrete baseline for future studies.

The study also notes decreases in jellyfish abundance in seven per cent of coastal regions, while the remainder of the marine ecosystems showed no obvious trend.


Next we’ll see the “jellyfish channel” on cable to complement the “Weather Channel”, so we can learn immediate of the latest outbreak, complete with Jellyfish watches and warnings, followed by a jellyfish reporting app for the iPhone. We’ll have wikipedia entries for “super outbreaks”.

Coastal TV stations will feature the J9000 – Super Jelly Doppler Live Tracker.

As I’ve said many times before, reporting bias is not a real trend.

Why it seems that severe weather is “getting worse” when the data shows otherwise – a historical perspective

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April 19, 2012 7:32 am

“Some species of jellyfish are now a food source in some parts of the world.”
Some species of jellyfish have been a food source in some parts of the world for centuries if not millennia. Hei zi pi, a chinese jellyfish salad, is one such food. Try some at a chinese restaurant if you can find one which offers this treat. Expand your culinary horizons while working to combat this pernicious rise in jellyfish population, and feel good about doing your bit to both provide restaurant workers with work and to combat this jellyplague! /partial snark as the jellyfish salad is delicious!

April 19, 2012 7:44 am

Well, at least they seem to understand the concept of baseline.
Compare with this new “study” on “sick fish” “caused” by the BP oil spill. No baseline, but it’s still reported as a real threat.

April 19, 2012 7:51 am

Hey Anthony, did you hear that David Suzuki quit his foundation? WUWT?

April 19, 2012 7:52 am

So let me get this straight. An increase in the population of jjellyfish on account of global warming. Should their numbers decline no doubt that might be attributed to global warming as well. Heads I win tails you lose.
I give up.

April 19, 2012 8:04 am
April 19, 2012 8:08 am

It seems quite probably that migrations of all manor of biologia are going to be happening because of opportunities presented by ships, boats, barges, drifting net masses, and whole ecologies now adrift as part of the tsunami debris fields spreading around the world.
Wait, whoa! That can’t be it. Forget that. The problem is CO2, and specifically human-caused CO2. Sorry – went off message there for a moment. /sarc

April 19, 2012 8:11 am

David Suzuki Foundation annual revenue: $8.7 million. Isn’t this tons more than Heartland Institute?
Suzuki isn’t special: The rules for charities apply to everyone:

Richard M
April 19, 2012 8:13 am

Just more evidence that the biosphere expands with more warmth. Life, in general, prefers warmth.

April 19, 2012 8:21 am

the first global study of jellyfish abundance
and somehow they know how many jellyfish there was before
“We can also see that the places where we see rising numbers of jellyfish are often areas heavily impacted by humans, through pollution, overfishing, and warming waters.”
either they are saying that jellyfish have better conditions and more food……
…or they are saying that through some miracle, all of a sudden jellyfish are less sensitive to water quality
Either way, they are finding out that there a lot more animals out there than they thought….that they are obviously not going extinct and in danger…..just like penguins in Antarctica and corals and poley bears and manatees and ………………………….

Billy Liar
April 19, 2012 8:24 am

The first line is a non sequitur.
If it’s the first global study they have nothing with which to compare it.

April 19, 2012 8:31 am

Overfishing makes sense. Lack of predators? Bottom trawling the cause?
From Wiki:

Bottom fishing has operated for over a century on heavily fished grounds such as the North Sea and Grand Banks. Although overfishing has caused huge ecological changes to the fish community on the Grand Banks, concern has been raised recently about the damage which benthic trawling inflicts upon seabed communities. A species of particular concern is the slow growing, deep water coral Lophelia pertusa. This species is home to a diverse community of deep sea organisms, but is easily damaged by fishing gear. On November 17, 2004 the United Nations General Assembly urged nations to consider temporary bans on high seas bottom trawling.
Bottom trawling stirs up the sediment at the bottom of the sea. The suspended solid plumes can drift with the current for tens of kilometres from the source of the trawling. These plumes introduce a turbidity which decreases light levels at the bottom and can affect kelp reproduction.
Ocean sediments are the sink for many persistent organic pollutants, usually lipophilic pollutants like DDT, PCB and PAH.[6] Bottom trawling mixes these pollutants into the plankton ecology where they can move back up the food chain and into our food supply.
Phosphorus is often found in high concentration in soft shallow sediments. Resuspending nutrient solids like these can introduce oxygen demand into the water column, and result in oxygen deficient dead zones.
Even in areas where the bottom sediments are ancient, bottom trawling, by reintroducing the sediment into the water column, can create harmful algae blooms. More suspended solids are introduced into the oceans from bottom trawling than any other man-made source.


April 19, 2012 8:33 am

If memory serves, turtles are the primary predator of jellyfish.
With turtles in trouble world wide because of human predation, it seems logical that jellyfish would increase in abundance.
Warming waters are much less well documented as a possible cause, afaik. Indeed, the ecosystem must have adapted to warmer water, given the repeated cycle of El Nino and La Nina warm and cool tropical seas.

April 19, 2012 8:41 am

Another squeal of discomfort from yet another cash-draining nacre-tower partnered with guess who? Geenpeace and WWF. Didn’t the Canadian feds pull some of their funding? We can only hope.

April 19, 2012 8:44 am

Law of the Sea Treaty coming, zoning the sea off from human activity, like fishing. Rejected by Congress, approved by executive fiat regulations.
It’s part of the UN plan.

April 19, 2012 8:45 am

Yet another squeal from a WWF- and Greenpeace-partnered alarmist-powered nacre tower. Aren’t the Canadian Feds cutting off their own funding of this group?

Doug Proctor
April 19, 2012 8:47 am

With all the fishing/vaccumming of the oceans, we should expect to see changes in the prey species. Like krill, kelp. Of course, saying that fishing, not temperatures, are causing these changes, would not reap a research grant but a rebuke from the fishing communities.
If Greenpeace and WWF really wanted to make an impact, they would target global agriculture and fishing and the raising of cattle. But that would put people in harm … those same people GP and WWF don’t want to have energy or a technologically advanced way of life.
Cognitive dissonance in action. Again and still.

April 19, 2012 8:55 am

I’ve seen a bit of this myself at Beaufort, although I don’t have a good long term baseline and my observations are anecdotal. But one explanation could easily be population reduction among jellyfish predator species like sea turtles, quite possibly due to human activity (but not global warming). In the waters around Beaufort, at least at certain times cannonball jellyfish are very, very common, and I believe that they are the natural food of at least two of the sea turtles that nest along the carolina coast. But as noted these are not systematic scientific observations on my part, just stuff I see looking out of my boat or floating in and out of the beaufort channel.

April 19, 2012 8:57 am

There was a study release a month ago out of The University of Western Australia which completely contradicts this study.

April 19, 2012 9:07 am

An increase in nutrients (what greenies call pollution) and a decrease in predation (what the greenies call overfishing) will cause a population to increase to a new STABLE state. Warmer waters have absolutely nothing to do with the phenomena. All a changing water temp would do is to SHIFT the population!

April 19, 2012 9:07 am

Next up: using jellyfish as global temperature proxies

Ian Hoder
April 19, 2012 9:11 am

Where exactly are these “warming waters” located? Since jellyfish are abundant in both cool and warm waters I don’t understand why “warming waters” would produce an increase.

Dave Wendt
April 19, 2012 9:13 am

A couple of months ago you had a post on this piece which said substantially the opposite
uestioning the Rise of Gelatinous Zooplankton in the World’s Oceans(pp. 160-169)
Robert H. Condon, William M. Graham, Carlos M. Duarte, Kylie A. Pitt, Cathy H. Lucas, Steven H.D. Haddock, Kelly R. Sutherland, Kelly L. Robinson, Michael N Dawson, Mary Beth Decker, Claudia E. Mills, Jennifer E. Purcell, Alenka Malej, Hermes Mianzan, Shin-ichi Uye, Stefan Gelcich, Laurence P. Madin
DOI: 10.1525/bio.2012.62.2.9
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/bio.2012.62.2.9

April 19, 2012 9:14 am

I have seen this before locally and it does appear tied to pollution. Hopefully it will allow for an increase in sea turtle populations as they are a favorite food.

Ian W
April 19, 2012 9:16 am

Overfishing => less fish => more jellyfish survive (as do other creatures low in food chain)

April 19, 2012 9:25 am

Some species of jellyfish are now a food source in some parts of the world.
They’ve always been a food source for loggerhead turtles, but I believe I’ll pass on them until science perfects the peanutbutterfish,..

April 19, 2012 9:34 am

I don’t know where else to post this, but I ran across a new environmental plea/contest today from the Smithsonian at http://www.smithmag.net/planet/
My entry was “faux outrage over a nonexistant problem”
Other possibilities I considered were “Climate change, 4.7 billion years later” and “CO2 is not an atmospheric pollutant”

April 19, 2012 9:37 am

Response to:
SebShaw says:
April 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

I think we should believe this previous Aussie study, since they suffer the most box jellyfish attacks. Also, they call themselves JEDI, so how can we not believe them?
[JEDI = Jellyfish Database Initiative]
Thanks, Shaw!

April 19, 2012 9:41 am

…some people need to step back and look at how big the ocean really is

John West
April 19, 2012 10:04 am

There may also be some cyclic component, as an avid NC surf fisherman for many years, I can recall in the mid to late 80’s seeing tons of jellyfish, not so many in the 90’s and early 2000’s and a recent increase (recovery) over the last few years. Perhaps it’s merely an an example of the predator prey boom/bust cycle like the classic hawk & hare example : hare population increase allows hawk population to increase, which decreases hare population, which can no longer support the hawk population so it decreases, allowing the hare population to increase, which allows the hawk population to increase, which decreases ……… and on and on.

April 19, 2012 10:05 am

The way these guys attribute everything to global warming is sickening.

April 19, 2012 10:47 am

I took a quick search, but couldn’t find the research directly; too much eco-absurd showing up in the searches.
Biologists have studied some of the reasons fish populations go through boom-bust cycles. One of the things they noticed was that the total oceanic biomass in a region stays relatively constant. One sealife population going through a bust cycle enables or frees up space and nutrients for other sea-life.
In terms of the oceanic food chain structure; Biologists believe the majority of sea biomass are the microscopic life. Sea critters that consume the micro-critters feed larger critters and so on.
Heavy commercial catches of oceanic life, especially those that eat the micro and smaller critters allow population explosions and the sea critters that can fill that void, do. Harvest huge quantities of squid, herring, anchovies, menhaden, mullet, sardines, shrimp, krill, other crustaceans and whatnot and we leave a huge void for the less delectable fish life; jellyfish.
Pollution and warming have almost nothing to do with it. As mentioned several times before, endangered sea turtles, especially the loggerheads are one of the few known jellyfish predators.
What may be needed is some research shoing the value of turning jellyfish into something useful and then to harvest jellyfish commercially.

R. Shearer
April 19, 2012 11:24 am

And the average is close to the mean. /sarc

Luther Wu
April 19, 2012 11:39 am

atheok says:
April 19, 2012 at 10:47 am
“…What may be needed is some research shoing the value of turning jellyfish into something useful and then to harvest jellyfish commercially.
and the headlines shortly after commercialization would read:
“Jellyfish threatened by Man Made Global Warming.”
You just aren’t feeling guilty enough yet, to realize that it’ll always be your fault and you must be made to pay the price.

April 19, 2012 12:12 pm

Ian Hoder says:
April 19, 2012 at 9:11 am
Where exactly are these “warming waters” located? Since jellyfish are abundant in both cool and warm waters I don’t understand why “warming waters” would produce an increase.

This is because global warming is good for bad things and bad for good things.
Good = polar bear cubs, seals, salmon, finches, strawberries
Bad things = mosquitoes, spiders, jelly fish, anthrax

Jeremy Thomas
April 19, 2012 12:43 pm

In support of the other posters re sea turtles: here in the southern Mediterranean there has been an increase in jellyfish over the past five years. The authorities say it’s due to the killing of sea turtles by fishermen in neighboring countries.

Disko Troop
April 19, 2012 1:52 pm

“What jellyfish and tornadoes have in common”
Did anyone else get this picture of jelly fish being sucked up by a tornado/waterspout and hurled around like an apocalyptic custard pie fight. People running from flying jelly fish. I have to go off and write the comedy horror movie script right now. Thanks WUWT
P.S. Did you know that if you jump on a dead jelly fish you bounce off and fall on your ass? Please don’t ask how I know that. Tough rubbery critters.

April 19, 2012 2:20 pm

“Predator” Corals Eat Jellyfish
“But jellyfish also have a number of other natural enemies that like to eat them. These predators include tunas, sharks, swordfish and some species of salmon.”
“Some of the most common and important jellyfish predators include tuna, shark, swordfish, and at least one species of Pacific salmon, as well as sea turtles,Strangely enough, some of the predators of jellyfish include jellyfish of other species., sea birds prey upon crabs and invariable end up feeding upon the host jellyfish as well.
“The common mola typically eats jellyfish, squid, and small fish”
crabs, squid, lobster, starfish, shrimp, etc etc all eat jellyfish……………..
this post will be in moderation hell for a while…………….LOL

April 19, 2012 6:44 pm

Can someone say Trophic Cascade. Not sure if top down or bottom up.

April 19, 2012 6:49 pm

I have lived in in Sarasota Fl now for over 1 3/4 years, and visited here several times before moving here, I get to the beach as often as I can, which is at least once a week, I have seen only 2 dead jellyfish in that time. I remember reading an article that wondered if the lack of jellyfish could have something to do with global warming or another human cause. No mater what happens to anything, we are to blame.

Brian H
April 19, 2012 7:14 pm

I think I’ll apply for a grant to count piles of jellyfish bones ….

April 19, 2012 8:45 pm

“Latitude says:
April 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm
“But jellyfish also have a number of other natural enemies that like to eat them. These predators include tunas, sharks, swordfish and some species of salmon.”
“Some of the most common and important jellyfish predators include tuna, shark, swordfish, and at least one species of Pacific salmon, as well as sea turtles,Strangely enough, some of the predators of jellyfish include jellyfish of other species., sea birds prey upon crabs and invariable end up feeding upon the host jellyfish as well.”
This bit of info causes my internal BS meter to go off when I see tuna listed as a predator of jellyfish. Tuna are high metabolic energy fish with small stomachs relative to the overall size of the tuna; meaning they need to eat frequently and seek out food with the biggest energy and nutritional benefit. Most jellyfish just don’t fit that description. I wouldn’t put it past a tuna to suck down jellyfish in passing, but I don’t think they spend a lot of time dining on them. While the information posted in the quoted paragraph above may be strictly accurate in that the listed fish have been known to eat jellyfish, I’d be careful about attributing major jellyfish predation to them.
Back when I was young, fished a lot and I didn’t have extra money to buy bait, like many folks I scrounged what I could from the beach itself. Several times I found and tried jellyfish as bait, I even tried jellyfish as a crab bait in a crab trap. Never managed to catch any of those jellyfish predators, not even a nibble.
In my previous post, I listed a number of the smaller critters in the sea that are heavily fished. Whether it’s to make cat food, fertilizer, oil, medicines or whatever; the most heavily fished or overfished critters are those that eat the single cell through larger plankton, krill and fry (baby fish). This is a food chain bracket where jellyfish happily fill the void to replace missing sea biomass, especially when almost nothing is stopping them.

April 19, 2012 10:59 pm

This doesn’t add to the science, or lack of, in this article and posting, but here’s a personal experience re jellyfish. Enjoy the imagery.
On a purse seiner fishing boat (e.g. netting salmon), the net is closed off, then pulled up through a motorized block (pulley). Two men grab the incoming net and lay it back out on the stern deck. Simple enough, but one minor problem: tons of jelly fish are captured on the net and squished as they go through the block. The screaming is horrific as these poor things are rendered into mush. Jellyfish slime justs oozes all down the net and all over the two men. Goggles and head-to-toe rubberized clothing does not completely stop one from getting stings… and let me tell you about getting jellyfish in the eyes, especially when you wear contact lenses. Oh, and there is the lovely fragrant aroma from the net as it dries – Magnifique!
PS: before I get in trouble with PETA, I should note that the screams are from the fishermen.

wayne Job
April 20, 2012 3:59 am

If there are so many of these blighters, they will be easily harvested by the thousands of tons. Fertilizer or food let us use them whilst abundant. I have seen plagues of insects and plagues of rabbits and mice and rats and we did not seize the opportunity. Let us not waste this one, perhaps it will prove a simple process to convert them into diesel fuel, that would be a win win.
Though the greens may be offended and to stop the process would try to get them classified as an endangered species.

April 20, 2012 2:05 pm

Any creature that goes through so many stages of metamorphosis in one lifetime, and has been in the fossil record since the Cambrian Era, deserves a little more respect than this. (There are even some adult medusae which fission into two adults.) Now these obsessive-compulsive micromanagers are writing hit pieces on the earth’s most venerable and aged life forms.

April 22, 2012 2:50 am

What jellyfish and tornadoes have in common
They’re both attracted to trailer parks?

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