EcoJel: Managing the opportunities and detrimental impacts of jellyfish in the Irish Sea

 

EcoJel is a four year project (2008-2012) funded by INTERREG IVa, the EUís Ireland/Wales programme through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project is a collaboration between Swansea University and University College Cork and builds upon the success of the Irish Sea Turtle Leatherback project.

Visit our main EcoJel project web page:

http://www.jellyfish.ie/index.asp

Press release about the project, featuring the Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Your help is needed ... have you found a tag, like the one depicted below, washed up on a beach near Camarthen Bay ? If so please contact Swansea University by email or telephone: Graeme Hays: g.hays [at] swansea.ac.uk, 01792 295375 or Victoria Hobson: v.j.hobson [at] swansea.ac.uk, 01792 205678 xt 4001.

 

          Photos from the field: a data storage tag used to record vertical movements of jellyfish and deploying the tag on a large Rhizostoma jellyfish  

The aim of the EcoJel project is to identify and manage the jellyfish threats and opportunities in the Irish Sea. Considering that jellyfish blooms will become more abundant in our coastal seas as a result of climate change, their overall ecosystem impact (both positive and negative) and consequently socio-economic importance may similarly increase. To tackle the issues of the changing importance and roles of jellyfish driven by climate change, EcoJel aims to:                          

1) Identify the threats of jellyfish nuisance blooms to bathers (e.g. in 2005 hundreds of people were stung with one person hospitalised in the Dublin area), and to raise the awareness of jellyfish to ensure that beach closures and threats to public health.

2) Establish the movements and origin of pest jellyfish through the development of innovative tracking technologies. The extent of jellyfish movements from one area to another are not known, EcoJel will build on previous expertise in tracking animals to track individual jellyfish.

3) We also hope to identify the impacts of jellyfish on fisheries and aquaculture,   and to develop ecosystem models to explore outcomes of predicted climate change scenarios. By determining the diet, abundance and distribution of jellyfish in the Irish Sea, and then compiling this data into an ecosystem model, EcoJel can identify how jellyfish impact on the expanding aquaculture industry, established fisheries and whether the Irish Sea is likely to experience a regime shift i.e. a shift from a fish dominated sea to one that is dominated by jellyfish (such regime shifts have already happened throughout the world).

4) Emerging markets for jellyfish products (e.g. human consumption in far-eastern markets) are spawning new jellyfish harvesting industries. In the Irish Sea the barrel jellyfish seems to fit the requirements for harvesting (large size, suitable colour and texture, non-venomous, very abundant). Also, learning from the experience of other countries, the Irish Sea offers the potential of a recreational hotspot for divers to swim with blooms of giant jellyfish.

 

Tom Doyle holding the oral arms of a Rhizostoma jellyfish

 

EcoJel will bring new and beneficial technologies to the cross-border region to track the movements of jellyfish so that treats of nuisance blooms to bathers can be accurately identified. This novel use of electronic tags to track the movements of jellyfish will revolutionise our understanding of jellyfish ecology. This understanding is critical to help us determine how jellyfish move within coastal areas where bathers occur. Specifically, EcoJel will aim to address the movements of the Lionís Mane Jellyfish, which is the most venomous jellyfish in the Irish Sea. In 2005, this jellyfish caused widespread closure of beaches in Dublin Bay and Wicklow, with un-quantified socio-economic impacts.

                                         

 

Jellyfish strandings in South Wales: a Rhizostoma jellyfish on Saundersfoot  beach and a mass stranding of Aurelia aurita on Caswell beach near Swansea                                  

 

 

 

 

The Irish Sea is typical of an over-exploited and over-utilised resource controlled by man-made disturbances (fishing) and inputs (waste discharge). As fish are one of the most abundant and diverse communities in the Irish Sea, determining what impacts jellyfish may have on fish communities will have important consequences on the biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, goods and services provided (production of fish and shellfish, waste assimilation and recreation), and the overall sustainability of this resource. Climate change will add significantly to the pressures that already exist in the Irish Sea. If the Irish Sea is to be protected, considerable awareness and vigilance are required for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

                                         

        Professor Graeme Hays                                          Dr Tom Doyle
        Dr Victoria Hobson                                                Dr Mark Emmerson
        Dr Ruth Callaway                                                  Valerie Cummins
        Martin Lilley                                                         Thomas Bastian                                         

Home

Page last updated:  8 December 2008