Dave Sandersfeld

Dayville, United States

Dave Sandersfeld start his career in 1970 as a US Forest Service “Wilderness Ranger” in the Frank Church/River of No Return...

Jellyfish invasion hits Japan and Ireland?

Jellyfish attack wipes out N.Ireland salmon farm
Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:49am EST
By Kevin Smith
DUBLIN (Reuters) – Jellyfish wiped out Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm, with more than 1 million pounds’ ($2.06 million) worth of stock massacred in the attack.
The jellyfish, covering an area of around 10 square miles , engulfed the Northern Salmon Company’s cages off the province’s northeastern coast, suffocating 100,000 fish, the firm’s Managing Director, John Russell, told Reuters on Thursday.
“It was sheer devastation — I’ve been 30 years in the salmon industry and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Russell said.
Staff on their way to give the fish their morning feed noticed a “reddish-brown tinge” to the sea and then realized the boats were struggling to make headway through an expanse of jellyfish up to 35 feet deep, Russell said.
“A few hours later all our salmon were dead, the bulk of them suffocated.”
The attack, by a type of jellyfish known as a “mauve stinger”, happened late last week off the coast of County Antrim, an area popular with tourists.
The mauve stinger, noted for its purplish night-time glow, is more commonly found in warmer Mediterranean waters.
Russell said the occurrence, when jellyfish “bloom” in such quantities, only happened every decade or so and last week’s appearance off the Irish coast was also due to unusual environmental factors including higher-than-normal water temperatures.
He said the 12 staff at the 20-year-old company feared for its future but that negotiations were under way with the Northern Irish government about a possible aid package.
“It’s very serious for the company but hopefully we can continue,” he said.
(Editing by Golnar Motevalli)
Invasion of Jellyfish
Envelops Japan
In Ocean of Slime
Pink 450-Pound Blobs Clog
Nets but Spur New Recipes;
Pointing Fingers at China
November 27, 2007; Page A1
OKI, Japan — Fisherman Ryoichi Yoshida pulled in his nets before dawn one morning, hoping for lots of yellowtail and mackerel. But the fish were overwhelmed by a heaving mass of living pink slime.
The creatures, called Nomura jellyfish, can measure six feet across and weigh up to about 450 pounds. They have been drifting en masse to places like Oki, a small island 40 miles off the coast, bobbing beneath the surface of the water like pink mines. They rip holes in fishermen’s nets, and they poison fish.
“Normally, we just bring up the nets and it takes about an hour,” said the weather-beaten Mr. Yoshida, 61 years old, after his crew had cleared the jellyfish out of the nets using long poles and hooks. “Now it takes two or three hours. And some of the fish escape.”

WSJ’s Sebastian Moffett reports from a Japanese boat where a scientist catches jellyfish, part of a new wave that’s menacing fisherman.
Until 2002, these giant creatures were seen only occasionally in Japanese waters. But for the past five years, they have been swarming every year into the Sea of Japan, the water that separates Japan from mainland Asia. During the biggest invasion so far, in 2005, an estimated 500 million jellyfish — not yet mature — drifted in each day.
It’s hard to calculate financial damage to fishermen, but the Japanese government last year counted about 50,000 incidents of jellyfish trouble. Fish poisoned by jellyfish tentacles die with their mouths agape. That mars their appearance and reduces their value by as much as 20%. "When their mouths are wide open, it means they’ve died going, ’I’m in pain! I’m in pain!’ " explains Mr. Yoshida.
Scientists have various ideas about what causes the outbreak. One has devised a computer model of ocean currents that suggests the jellyfish are breeding off the Chinese coast near the mouth of the Yangtze River. One theory is that pollution, perhaps linked to industrialization in China, is helping create more algae in the sea. The algae are food for plankton, which is food for jellyfish.
Three Gorges Dam
Then, too, there is speculation about a link to the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric-power project under construction in the Yangtze, which could be changing water flows to the sea. A dam in a section of the Danube that runs between Serbia and Romania completed in 1972 changed the river flow, after which the jellyfish population of the Black Sea exploded.
Chinese officials and scientists deny that Chinese pollution has caused the outbreaks.
“No research evidence in China supports a connection between pollution and jellyfish,” says Li Qi, a dean of the Ocean University of China. “Floating jellyfish are mostly in the Sea of Japan….That’s Japan and Korea’s problem.”
Eager for a solution, slasher squads of fishermen went out last year armed with barbed poles to attack jellyfish that were jamming up nets. If the jellyfish are cut into three or more bits, they usually die and get eaten by other sea creatures.
Fishermen have also taken a trawl net and added a wire grill like a large potato masher at the trailing end: When the net is pulled through a swarm of jellyfish, they float through and are sliced up.
The Japanese government is doing what it can. It tracks the progress of jellyfish as they swarm through the Sea of Japan, urging trawlers to steer clear of them. The Japanese harvest some jellyfish to eat. Jellyfish can be boiled and added to salads — though smaller varieties are said to be more tender and tasty. Trying to win converts, the fisheries ministry has drawn up a manual with tips on cooking with giant jellyfish. Menus include jellyfish-flavored biscuits, jellyfish soaked in rum and a dessert of jellyfish chunks in coconut milk.
Jellyfish Ice Cream
One coastal firm, Tango Jersey Dairy, has for the past three years produced 2,000 or 3,000 cartons of vanilla-and-jellyfish ice cream. The jellyfish is soaked overnight in milk to reduce its smell, and is then diced. Fumiko Hirabayashi, a director of the dairy, says the jelly cubes are slightly chewy. Jellyfish is also getting publicity in women’s magazines because it contains collagen, a protein used in cosmetics.
“We think it’s important to use local ingredients,” says Mrs. Hirabayashi. “And this has now become a local ingredient.”
Despite the damage they cause, jellyfish are actually delicate creatures. The Marine World aquarium in Fukuoka, west Japan, displayed two giant Nomuras in 2004. Despite the care taken with the cranes used to put them into tanks, the jellyfish quickly took sick, and they died in just a couple of weeks. Echizen Matsushima Aquarium in Fukui, one of the costal areas most affected by the influx, has been displaying the jellyfish since 2005. But they soon die, too, and must be replenished.
One fear among scientists is that the creatures are multiplying in a “jellyfish spiral.” Shinichi Uye, a leading jellyfish researcher at Hiroshima University in western Japan, thinks overfishing off China has led to fewer plankton-eating fish, leaving more plankton for the jellyfish to suck up. This growing army of jellyfish then also eats fish eggs, resulting in even fewer fish.
Whatever the details, says Prof. Uye, the problem seems to be industrial development. “It’s like a harmless living thing has been angered,” he says. “The reason for its anger might lie with human activity.”
Trying to understand why the jellyfish have started appearing in such numbers, marine biologist Kohzoh Ohtsu studies their reproductive cycle on another part of Oki. One afternoon he and a colleague — dressed in rubber clothing to protect against the poison — cut lumps of tentacle from a 200-pound jellyfish with a knife to make it light enough to bring aboard.
One cause of the mass invasions, he says, “could be rising sea temperatures” making it easier for the jellyfish to breed and feed near China.
Though he doesn’t know details of the sea temperatures there, the peak water temperature in the Sea of Japan has been four or five degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal in a couple of recent years, indicating warmer seas in the region. One fear is that higher temperatures or other environmental changes might one day even allow the giant jellyfish to breed around Japan, adding further to their numbers.
Dedicated Research
Prof. Ohtsu has dedicated his research to jellyfish since 2003, after they became a national problem, and his quest to unravel the mystery continues year-round. He lives at his marine research center in an isolated part of this small island, and is alone there most of the year - except for a laboratory full of jellyfish at different stages of development. He travels to the Japanese mainland about twice a month, but the trips have to be kept short.
“I have living things here, so I have to keep an eye on them,” he says. “If you leave them for three or four days, they don’t look too good. They are very delicate.”
Bai Lin in Shanghai contributed to this article.
Write to Sebastian Moffett at sebastian.moffett@wsj.com

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