The Invasion of the Jellyfish

The Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden had to shut down one of its reactors last week due to jellyfish clogging the cooling system pipes. Jellyfish come in all sizes and shapes, and although some species are deadly, they are usually not the concern of anyone who doesn't live on the coast. But recently, jellyfish blooms have been causing a lot of headaches for industries all over the world.

Oskarshamn-like disturbances are happening all over the world. Throngs of jellyfish have disrupted power generation everywhere from Muscat to Maryland, from South Korea to Scotland. Things are worse in the fishing business, where blooms have wiped out billions of dollars in earnings over the last few decades. They’re also a nightmare for fishermen, who must contend with bursted nets and clogged trawl lines. Japan’s now-annual bloom of Nomura jellyfish, which each grow to be the size of large refrigerator, capsized and sank a 10-ton trawler when the fishermen tried to haul up a net full of them.

Tourism has taken a hit, too. This summer, a pileup of a million jellyfish along a 300 kilometer (186 miles) swath of Mediterranean coastline shortened swimming season for hundreds of thousands of tourists on beach holidays, reports The Guardian. Some 150,000 people are now treated for jellyfish stings in the Mediterranean each summer.

Fighting jellyfish blooms is is difficult undertaking for the same reasons that fighting cartain fictional movie monsters is difficult: they have no brains and therefore no fear, they are often invisible, they eat everything in sight, and they reproduce like crazy. In fact, if you cut one particular species, you are actually encouraging it to reproduce. Scientists believe the jellyfish populations are exploding because of overfishing and pollution. The problem is that once the jellyfish are released from the constraints of the natural food chain, they damage that food chain even further -and it may be too late to stop it. Read more about how jellyfish are taking over the world at Quartz. -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: Flickr user Stuart Richards)

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