September 06, 2013
Stung: Jellyfish Taking Over Many Ocean Regions

The New York Review of Books has a great review of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean by Lisa-ann Gershwin. Jellyfish are getting moved around the world by ship ballast and causing huge damage to fisheries. We are also doing damage to their competitors. Read the whole thing.

From the Arctic to the equator and on to the Antarctic, jellyfish plagues (or blooms, as they’re technically known) are on the increase. Even sober scientists are now talking of the jellification of the oceans. And the term is more than a mere turn of phrase. Off southern Africa, jellyfish have become so abundant that they have formed a sort of curtain of death, “a stingy-slimy killing field,” as Gershwin puts it, that covers over 30,000 square miles. The curtain is formed of jelly extruded by the creatures, and it includes stinging cells. The region once supported a fabulously rich fishery yielding a million tons annually of fish, mainly anchovies. In 2006 the total fish biomass was estimated at just 3.9 million tons, while the jellyfish biomass was 13 million tons.

Humans are to blame in a variety of other ways as well. Overfishing of jellyfish competitors such as anchovies is helping the jellyfish wipe out other kinds of fish. We also cause oxygen depletion of water via fertilizer run-off. Jellyfish can out-compete other fish in low oxygen areas. The review outlines additional ways that humans are accidentally giving advantages to jellyfish.

Gershwin believes jellyfish are going to do catastrophic damage to the other species in the oceans. Scary.

Paul Dayton of Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Stung:

“Read this book! You know that the oceans are in trouble, but this is the most comprehensive and clear explanation of why. Stung! is more than just a book about jellyfish; it is undoubtedly one of the best books detailing the stresses on our ocean ecosystems. It is a much needed and spectacular achievement.”

Dead zones are growing in number and size.

there are now 405 identified dead zones worldwide, up from 49 in the 1960s

Here is one I hadn't thought about before: the corn ethanol mandate (a subsidy for farmers masquerading as an environmental benefit) makes the very large Gulf of Mexico dead zone even bigger.

We need fish and healthy oceans. We should cut way back on allowed fertilizer run-off by shifting to different techniques to deliver fertilizer. We should also build marshes and other buffer zones between the farms and rivers.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 September 06 10:00 PM 

Neil Craig said at September 8, 2013 7:21 AM:

But we will doubtless see the ecofascists take this and run with it far beyond any reasonable danger because that is what they ALWAYS do.

If it is species being spread around the oceans in due course their natural predators will be too and a new balance produced.

While commercial fertilizer runoff may be a contributory cause I can't see this as being important off south Africa.

James Bowery said at September 8, 2013 9:37 AM:

The fisheries being "damaged" are merely jealous xenophobes.

Randall Parker said at September 8, 2013 7:10 PM:

Neil Craig,

Your animosity toward environmentalists is clouding your reasoning.

Natural predator spread: Not all species can survive as easily in ballast containers.

Phillep Harding said at September 9, 2013 11:42 AM:

Chum salmon (aka: "Keta") are also jellyfish eaters, and do well in colder water.

Some of those environmentalist "organizations" are no more than a couple of lawyers with their secretary, looking over misplaced commas to sue over, using the "Equal Justice Act". They get to "hire" themselves, officially distancing the enviro org from the law firm, charge at whatever rate they like, claim however many hours they like, and the EPA, or whatever federal agency they are suing, rolls over and pays off.

Note the first word of the above paragraph. "Some". That does not equal "all", but it does equal "too many", if you try to make your living in the fish or lumber industries.

James Bowery said at September 10, 2013 12:35 PM:

I sure am glad conservatives and standing up to these liberal environmentalists because if we don't nip this in the bud, their arguments for "Curbing Undesirable Invaders" their arguments to protect biodiversity from immigrant species seeking a better life might threaten the entire "diversity is our strength" open borders agenda -- and Lord knows we just can't do without third world labor keeping the erstwhile middle class cum uppity white trash from competing with the white elites.

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