I Don’t Think You’re Ready, For This Jelly

In Sweden, jellyfish populations overwhelmed and clogged a nuclear power plant’s pipes. These pipes turned out to be extremely important as they cool the plant’s turbines, and the nuclear power plant had to shut down. A year before, the same thing happened in California. In less extreme cases, yet still costly, large amounts of jellyfish have clogged fishing nets and damaged fishing gear. All of these jellyfish problems have raised eyebrows, and when scientists looked into jellyfish populations, they found that jellyfish are blooming more often, earlier, more intensely, and staying longer.

Around the world, jellyfish populations are booming. While this may not seem like such a big deal, it is yet another sign of climate change and environmental degradation, one that is costing various industries millions of dollars. In addition, the jellyfish feed on plankton, crustaceans, small fish, and fish eggs, which are all food resources of which larger mammals such as whales rely on. Jellyfish are thriving in places the don’t usually thrive, and this is seen as a sign that oceans around the world are stressed or unhealthy.

Map of population trends of native and invasive species of jellyfish

***Jellyfish population trends. Red indicates an increase with a high degree of certainty, while orange indicates an increase with a low degree of certainty. Blue indicates a decrease. Green represents a stable or variable population. Grey indicates no data.***

In areas where jellyfish populations have boomed causing nuclear power plants to shutdown, scientists have found that the species is causing the damage is the common moon jellyfish. This species of jellyfish thrives in areas of the ocean that have been “overfished or have bad conditions.” Bad conditions refers to anything from toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and too much trash in the oceans. Overfishing leaves lots of open space for the jellyfish to thrive, and when the fish are gone, jellyfish have the chance to dominate the ecosystem. It seems as though we have another case where humans have exploited the environment and caused detrimental effects.

What You Can Do To Help

One of the biggest problems with the booming jellyfish populations is that no monitoring exists to track the jellyfish populations. Data gained from the monitoring is needed for scientists to figure out how to address the issue. Luckily, a website and apps for iPhones and Androids have been created where the public is able to report where jellyfish are blooming. The scientists will use this data to figure out where jellyfish are, how often the blooms are occurring, and for how long. Without the help of the public, this research would be too expensive. With more research occurring, scientists will be able to find and implement ways to curb the jellyfish explosion. If you see jellyfish, report it!

Photo Cred: cbc.ca

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Exxon Valdez-25 Years Later

Twenty five years ago today, the super tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. The result? Oil covering over 1,100 miles of Alaska`s coastline. To put this into context, that is the equivalent of covering everything from Atlanta to Boston. Nothing has been the same since.

A few quick facts:

  • Approximately 11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels or 35,000 metric tonnes of oil spilled (roughly equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools)
  • Widely considered to be one of the biggest spills worldwide in terms of damage to the environment
  • It took more than four summers of cleanup efforts before the cleanup stopped. Not all beaches were cleaned and some beaches remain oiled today (Winter storm wave action is believed to have done more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved)
  • The ship went back to work under various new names

The evidence of lingering effects is clear. Rough estimates pin the deaths of 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters and 300 harbor seals directly on the oil spill. Two groups of killer whales swam through the affected parts of the Prince William Sound, and a study found that these pods experienced population losses around 41 percent in the year after the spill. The sea otters populations have only just-25 years later- recovered. Three species of cormorant, the common loon, the harbor seal, the harlequin duck, the pacific herring and the pigeon guillemot never fully recovered.

The BP oil spill in 2010 demonstrates that these oil disasters will happen again. Many of you will have probably visited a beach in your recent memory. My family, for example, visits the beaches in Maine (the photo above) nearly every year and would be devastated if they ever experienced an oil spill. The countless environmental, political and social implications that oil spills cause calls for a plan of action.

Generally oil spill cleanup will rest on a large, organized incident management group, but the first responders will most likely be the closest locals who have the most knowledge of the natural resources, and have the most at stake in relation to the spill. The Arctic, where the Valdez spill occurred, is an area that has a large amount of risk of oil spills occurring as Arctic waters are full of shipping activities. Giving the people who stand to lose the most to an oil spill event should be provided with training and equipment that could help them play a role in responding to any future environmental disaster.

The cheapest option available is to hope for the best, but with the amount of devastation an oil spill can cause, the value of prevention and preparedness is priceless.

Photo Cred: Tricia Skorupinski

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

That’s a-moray!

There are over 200 species of moray eels around the world and for the first time ever a species of moray, the Black Ribbon Moray, has been bred! This is a great step forward in protecting and improving biological diversity throughout our marine ecosystems.

Biodiversity is more and more recognized as essential to human life, but many species are jeopardized by urbanization, habitat destruction, climate change, overexploitation of the world’s fisheries and marine ecosystems, and other human activities. The diversity of life on earth is essential for preserving the basic planetary life support systems humans require every day.  Ecosystem services, or the resources nature provides, like drinking water, crop pollination, nutrient cycling and climate regulation, all rely on biodiversity. Biodiversity is also crucial for sustainable development as all the resources and ecosystem services which nature provides contribute directly to human well-being in multiple ways. As development occurs, biodiversity needs to be monitored and protected as many economic sectors depend on biodiversity, particularly poor and vulnerable people are more severely impacted from a loss of biodiversity and biodiversity can provide solutions to societal challenges. The fact that the world’s poor rely on biological resources for up to 90% of their needs such as food, fuel, medicine, shelter, and transportation illustrates how important biodiversity if for development.

The picture displayed for this post was taken on my scuba diving trip in the Turks and Caicos islands. The diversity of animals I was able to see on my diving trips, including this beautiful fish, will no longer be there if development does not account for loss of biodiversity. The first time breeding of moray eels is a great way for humans to combat the loss of biodiversity occurring around the world and throughout marine environments. Governments around the world need to build on this initiative and integrate biodiversity considerations into their policies and strategies.