Friday, November 20, 2009

Global warming, pollution drive jellyfish north, threaten fish stocks

Here's the latest unintended, surprise consequence of global warming and pollution. The range of 2,000 jellyfish species is expanding. (AP) Jellyfish like the warmer waters and they devour microscopic plankton thriving in increasingly polluted waters.

So what?

If you like eating fish, or if you're a fisherman, you should be concerned. A single jellyfish can ruin a whole day's catch by stinging fish stuck in nets, and they can wreak havoc of fisheries. In 2007, a Northern Ireland salmon farm lost 100,000 fish after an attack by the mauve stinger (which normally stays in the Mediterranean).

If you like going to the beach, you should be a little worried. Already 500,000 people are stung each year in the Chesapeake Bay alone. In the Philippines 20 to 40 people die each year from jellyfish stings. These are not creatures we want expanding their range.

If you're a fan of seaside power and desalination plants, you should be a bit annoyed. Power and desalination plants have been shut down in Japan, the Middle East and Africa after jellyfish hordes moved in.

"These increases in jellyfish should be a warning sign that our oceans are stressed and unhealthy," said University of British Columbia researcher Lucas Brotz.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.