Between massive swarms and habitat invasions, jellyfish are changing ecosystems, stinging beachgoers, and causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Using high-tech underwater gadgets, scientists are racing to understand one of the most common, mysterious—and destructive—sea creatures
Bad Catch: Increasing numbers of fishermen’s nets are filling with jellyfish, which slime, poison, and crush the intended catch. Asahi Shimbun
For most of us, jellyfish are nothing more than a nuisance. They drift toward beach shores and into our consciousness each summer near the end of their life cycle, making a refreshing dip in the water a bit less carefree for a few weeks. But that may be changing.
Last November, a 10-mile-wide and 42-foot-thick swarm of baby mauve stingers (Pelagia noctiluca) decimated Northern Ireland’s farmed-salmon population. Overnight,120,000 fish were reduced to a floating mass of carcasses by billions of the small jellies native to warmer waters thousands of miles to the south. The salmon, which were killed by stings and oxygen deprivation, had a market value of $2 million.