Jellyfish research has potential to influence future fisheries management

Scientists working on a four year project to assess the detrimental impacts of jellyfish in the Irish Sea, led by Professor Graeme Hays from the Department of Pure and Applied Ecology, aim to provide new insights into how global climate change may impact upon jellyfish

The project, titled EcoJel, is a €1 million collaboration between Swansea University and University College Cork funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Ireland Wales Programme 2007-2013 - Interreg 4A.

Professor Hays said: “Over the past two decades jellyfish abundance has risen globally causing concern that this is a result of climate change and degradation of marine ecosystems under the pressure of human activities, such as commercial fishing and the accidental introduction of alien species.

“In many places in the world, jellyfish blooms - a sudden, massive increase of jellyfish numbers - have already proved they can have critical socio-economic impacts, for example clogging fishing nets, causing mass mortalities of farmed salmon, or blocking the cooling water intake of power stations. They are also suspected to prey on certain fish eggs and larvae and may limit the potential recovery of already weakened fish stocks.”

The EcoJel project team has been focusing on the long-term increase in jellyfish abundance in the Irish Sea where several ‘hotspots’ have been identified and have had negative impacts on tourism, such as beach closures in Ireland around Dublin in 2005, and on aquaculture, hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon died because of a massive jellyfish bloom in 2007.

Until now, knowledge about these organisms in this region has remained very limited. Through analysing a dataset collected from extensive fish surveys in the Irish Sea and developing an innovative tracking device, the ‘jellytag’, a tiny electronic dive computer attached around the stalk of jellyfish to establish their movements and origin, the team aim to unravel the influences of climate change and over fishing on the abundance of jellyfish.

To date research findings have led to the EcoJel team being asked to present their insights on jellyfish at a European Parliament hearing of the Intergroup for Seas and Coastal Affairs, which is chaired by French MEP Corinne Lapage and co-chaired by Swedish MEP Isabella Lövin.

Dr Tom Doyle, Co-principal Project Investigator, from the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre, ERI, University College Cork addressed the Intergroup on behalf of the team.

Dr Doyle stated: “It is hoped that work from EcoJel will demonstrate the importance of monitoring jellyfish abundance and that jellyfish will be incorporated into the new ecosystems approach to fisheries management.”

A paper has also recently been published in the Global Change Biology journal. The full article can be viewed online

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02352.x/full

For more information on the Ecojel project visit http://www.jellyfish.ie/

For more information on the Department of Pure and Applied Ecology, based in the School of the Environment and Society visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/biosci/

This news item has been generated by Katy Drane, Swansea University Public Relations Office, Tel: 01792 295050 or email k.drane@swansea.ac.uk