EcoJel project to take the sting out of jellyfish
Swansea and Cork Universities are joining forces for a project to research how factors such as climate change and over-fishing are causing jellyfish to thrive and the repercussions this may have on the cross border economy.
The EcoJel scheme is the first to be approved under the EU’s Ireland/Wales programme and it will receive £575,000 through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Using the latest technology, the project will tag jellyfish to explore the effect increased populations are having on tourism, aquaculture and fisheries.Welcoming the announcement, Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: “We are seeing increasing jellyfish populations and this is having a real impact. In November Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm was wiped out by an invasion of jellyfish, killing 100,000 fish. They are also thought to be affecting tourism through beach closures.
“However, their abundance may also provide an opportunity. They could provide an eco-tourist attraction for recreational divers. The project will also explore the potential of harvesting jellyfish in a sustainable way for food to export to Asian markets.”
Through the four year project the team aims to become a centre of excellence for jellyfish research in the Irish Sea.
Professor Graeme Hays, Head of Environmental and Molecular Biosciences at Swansea University’s School of Environment and Society, said: “There is very little known about jellyfish despite the fact that jellyfish blooms may be increasing because of climate change and over-fishing, which could have huge socio-economic impacts.
“The EcoJel project will allow a broad-scale assessment of the ecosystem role of jellyfish in the Irish Sea. The studies will help to inform management decisions for this area.”
As part of the project a campaign will be launched to raise awareness of jellyfish and it is hoped that members of the public will be able to help in the research.Dr Ruth Callaway, EcoJel project manager, said: “The tags will be attached to the jellyfish and will record information such as water temperature and depth.
“As the lifespan of a jellyfish is about a year, once it dies the tag will be washed ashore with the body. We hope that members of the public will find the tags and send them to us for analysis.”
For further information about the School of Environment and Society at Swansea University visit the School's website.