Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Biologists campaign to save fish

From the Taipei Times:   Biologists campaign to save fish

Marine biologists and conservation groups yesterday launched a signature drive for a petition urging the government to add two endangered bulbous-head fish species to the protected species list.
The petition will ask the Council of Agriculture to add the Napoleonfish and the Bumphead Parrotfish onto the Schedule of Protected Species List under the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法).
The Napoleonfish is also known as the humphead wrasse, and its name in Chinese means “dragon king fish.” The bumphead parrotfish — Bolbometopon muricatum — is also known as the double-headed parrotfish. Both species are slow growing and long-lived, with delayed reproduction and low rates of replenishment.
“The number of these two fish species still left is lower than the number of Chinese white dolphins in the waters around Taiwan’s west coast,” Taiwanese Coral Reef Society (TCRS) chairperson Cheng Ming-shou (鄭明修) said.
TCRS secretary-general Chang Ming-lung (張銘隆) said that both the Napoleonfish and the bumphead parrotfish are considered giant species of the marine reef community, and they used to be quite common in the coral reefs near the shores of Taiwan.
However, they are now on the brink of extinction, after many years of unregulated harvesting by fishermen and spear fishing by recreational divers, he said.
“We estimate that there are only about 30 individuals of these two species left, which is less than the 66 recorded for the Chinese white dolphin in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
“The Forestry Bureau held a meeting to discuss adding these two fish species to the Schedule of Protected Species List. However, Department of Fisheries officials thought there was insufficient data for assessment. So more data will need to be provided, and this issue will be put on the agenda of next month’s Wildlife Protection Advisory Committee meeting,” the head of the Forestry Bureau’s Protected Species Division, Guang Li-hao (管立豪), said.
It is quite alarming that it has been more than 10 years since a single Napoleonfish or bumphead parrotfish was sighted in the marine reef territories surrounding Taiwan and its offshore islands of Green Island, Lanyu (蘭嶼) and Penghu and recorded in the survey conducted by his organization, Chang said.
TCRS have sent letters to the Conservation Division of the Forestry Bureau, requesting to place Napoleonfish and bumphead parrotfish onto the Schedule of Protected Species List.
“My research programs focus on the waters around Kenting (墾丁) and the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島). During my diving expeditions over the past decade, I have rarely spotted the Napoleonfish,” said Chen Cheng-ping (陳正平), a Taiwan Ocean Research Institute researcher.
Cheng, who is a researcher at the Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica, said the Napoleonfish was the largest fish in the nation’s coral reef ecosystem, and can weigh up to 200kg.
However, due to overfishing, “most Napoleonfish have been eaten. We hardly see them anymore in the waters surrounding Taiwan,” he said.
“The bumphead parrotfish is easy prey for fishermen, because it has a fixed habitat and keeps regular sleeping hours,” Cheng said.
Both of these species are excellent attractions that pull in tourists and divers to renowned tourist spots in coastal recreational parks around the world and protected marine areas around tropical islands, he said.
“They are the star attractions and the real money-spinners for the marine tourist industry. Therefore, we urge the council to add these two ‘shining stars’ of the coral reef fishes to the protected species list. They should become attractions for marine recreation activities, and we should put them in the international spotlight,” Cheng said.


Monday, January 28, 2013

No haggling over reef fine–Abaya

From Global Nation Inquirer:  No haggling over reef fine–Abaya

The penalty for the damage caused to the Tubbataha Reefs by a US Navy minesweeper is non-negotiable, Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya said Sunday.
But to be able to conduct a thorough investigation, the Philippine government should have access to the commanding officer and crew of the USS Guardian which has been stuck in the marine park since  Jan. 17, Abaya said.
“Well, there are laws in place. I don’t think this is subject to tawaran (haggling) or negotiation. I heard of the figure of $300 [fine] per square meter. If that is really engraved in the law then there’s no room for negotiation whether this is high or low,” he told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Abaya said he had yet to look into whether there would be a need to impose an additional fine for the damage left by the minesweeper on the world-renowned reefs pending its extrication.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, President Aquino told reporters the US Navy would be held liable and be made to pay for the damage.
The 63-meter, 1,300-ton ship, part of the US naval fleet stationed in Japan, docked at the former American naval base in Subic Bay on Jan. 12 for routine refueling, resupply and rest and recreation.
Palawan stop
It was scheduled to make a brief stop at Puerto Princesa City before heading off to its next port of call in India when it grazed the reef and got stuck 128 kilometers off Palawan 11 days ago.
The US Navy said a faulty navigational map or possible errors in the USS Guardian’s navigational system had caused it to stray into a protected marine area.
US officials have apologized for the accident and the damage it has caused to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.
Two ships from Singapore are due to arrive this week or the next to extricate the grounded ship from the reef.
This early, Abaya stressed the need for Philippine investigators’ free access to the commanding officer and crew of the grounded ship to get a full picture of what happened.
“So we are conducting our investigation. It has been done since Day 1 and, necessarily, to have a thorough and complete investigation is we should have access to the duty personnel, the duty officer, and even the commanding officer to at least get a chance to hear them out on what actually happened so we could complete the picture of what transpired,” he said.
But this has to be coordinated through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Abaya said.
‘Essential ingredient’
“I have mentioned again to Secretary (Albert) del Rosario that that is an essential ingredient of the investigation,” he said.
Abaya reiterated that the government would insist on vetting the US Navy’s operation to salvage the ship.
“The least we would want is a scenario where they go about their way without us knowing about it. The President has strictly instructed us that any salvage plan should be vetted by the Philippine side and should be approved by the Philippine side,” he said.
So far, the general feedback from environmental groups in the area was that the US Navy has been “transparent,” he said.
“Of course, not all information, if they consider it confidential, is readily shared. But at least for public consumption and for planning purposes, our counterparts from the American side have been cooperating,” he said.


Thursday, January 24, 2013


Never realized I hadn't posted in over 2 weeks!

Sorry, folks

Things have just gotten away from me the last week and a half...posting should be back on schedule starting this weekend.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Killer whales' apparent escape from sea ice likely short-lived: expert

From Montreal Gazette :  Killer whales' apparent escape from sea ice likely short-lived: expertebec town cautiously celebrated Thursday after a dozen killer whales appeared to have freed themselves from the shifting floes of Hudson Bay.

Killer whales' apparent escape from sea ice likely short-lived: expert

A killer whale surfaces through a small hole in the ice near Inukjuak, in Northern Quebec, on Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013. A leader in a northern Quebec village says about a dozen killer whales that were trapped under sea ice appear to have reached safety as the floes shifted on Hudson Bay. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Marina Lacasse

MONTREAL - A northern Quebec town cautiously celebrated Thursday after a dozen killer whales appeared to have freed themselves from the shifting floes of Hudson Bay.

But while some in the village of Inukjuak expressed relief, others feared the orcas might not have escaped danger.
Many locals believe the water currents and ever-moving ice in the massive, frigid bay may eventually box the mammals in somewhere else.
One expert in Arctic wildlife said they have good reason to be concerned, because the thicker winter ice has yet to form on the bay. The orcas, meanwhile, were still 1,000 kilometres from where they should be at this time of year, said Pete Ewins of World Wildlife Fund Canada.
"They got stuck (in Hudson Bay) and they're unlikely to get out," said Ewins, adding that killer whales are not accustomed to ice.
"These guys are on the edge and they might not make it through."
The animals' predicament made international headlines and the stunning images of the orcas circulated via media around the world.
For at least two days, the mammals were trapped around a single, pickup-truck-sized breathing hole in the sea ice, about 30 kilometres from Inukjuak.
Locals captured images of the orcas frantically bobbing for air from the opening, which allowed only a couple of the animals to surge for oxygen at a time.
The killer whales were first spotted Tuesday and were last seen at the hole late Wednesday. On Thursday, two Inukjuak hunters reported that the waters had opened up in the area and the orcas were gone.
Some villagers were skeptical the killer whales had escaped harm, so the community hired an airplane to scan the region Thursday for signs of the pod.
Mark O'Connor of the regional marine wildlife board said the aerial search did not locate the orcas, but he noted that large swaths of ice-free water were seen in the area.
"So as far as I could tell, the emergency, for sure, is averted," said O'Connor, the board's director of wildlife management.
"Whether the whales have found a passage all the way to the Hudson Strait, we probably will never know."
Inukjuak's town manager believes the orcas escaped the ice when the winds shifted overnight and blew back into the bay. Johnny Williams said the direction change seemed to have pushed the floating ice further away from the shore, loosening its coverage on the water.
He also credited the new moon for changing the conditions.
Tommy Palliser, a local government official, said in an email Thursday that the orcas' once-inadequate breathing hole was about 500 metres wide and up to five kilometres long.
He also expressed concern about the varying conditions.
"The problem is the wind is coming in again from the sea ice," wrote Palliser, a business adviser for northern Quebec's regional government.
Locals in Inukjuak, about 1,500 kilometres north of Montreal, believe the orcas were initially pinned under a vast expanse of ice after a sudden drop in temperature caught them off guard.
Ewins said that in recent years climate change has reduced sea-ice cover in Hudson Bay, opening the door to predators like orcas to spend more time there feeding in summer.
But sometimes they don't make it out, he said.
Ewins pointed to three ways to respond to the situation: rescue operations, such as helicopter lifts and icebreaker-dug channels; destroying the orcas if they start to suffer; and allowing nature to take its course.
"These clearly are the minority of the killer-whale population that didn't quite get it right and get out in time," Ewins said.
To survive the winter in the bay, he said the killer whales would have the challenge of moving from one ice-free area to another until the floes recede from the bay in May.
Experts say sea ice is known as a natural cause of death for marine mammals like orcas.
Palliser, who saw the animals up close several times, said they appeared to have less energy late Wednesday, the last time he saw them.
Many thought time was running out for the killer whales on Wednesday, as their breathing hole seemed to have shrunk in the freezing temperatures.
Inukjuak Mayor Peter Inukpuk asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on Wednesday to send an icebreaker to smash the ice to free the orcas, but he said he was told the site was too far away and that the ships were unavailable.
The federal department said Thursday that two DFO scientists were headed to the village to collect information.
Villagers, nonetheless, were ready to take action. They had made plans to launch a daring rescue operation Thursday in an effort to buy more time for the gasping killer whales.
Locals had agreed to attempt to enlarge the existing breathing hole — and cut a second opening using chainsaws and drills.
Williams hopes the villagers' prayers have been answered.
"These mammals are the same thing as humans, they deserve to live like everybody else," he said. "They don't need to suffer."

Overfishing causes Pacific bluefin tuna numbers to drop 96%

From the Guardian:  Overfishing causes Pacific bluefin tuna numbers to drop 96%

3 12.17 EST
Bluefin tuna, Spain
The latest data from the international scientific committee which monitors tuna in the Pacific showed bluefin tuna stocks were a small fraction of what they had been and were in danger of all but disappearing. Photograph: Brian J. Skerry/Getty Images/National Geographic
The bluefin tuna, which has been endangered for several years and has the misfortune to be prized by Japanese sushi lovers, has suffered a catastrophic decline in stocks in the Northern Pacific Ocean, of more than 96%, according to research published on Wednesday.
Equally concerning is the fact that about 90% of specimens currently fished are young fish that have not yet reproduced.
Last week, one fish sold in Japan for more than £1m, reflecting the rarity of the bluefin tuna and the continued demand for its fatty flesh, which is sold for high prices across Asia and in some high-end western restaurants.
Bluefin tuna is one of nature's most successful ocean inhabitants, the biggest of the tuna and a top-of-the-food-chain fish with few natural predators. But the advent of industrial fishing methods and a taste for the species among rich sushi devotees have led to its being hunted to the brink of extinction.
If current trends continue, the species will soon be functionally extinct in the Pacific, and the frozen bodies held in a few high-security Asian warehouses will be the last gasp the species.
More than nine out of 10 of the species recently caught were too young to have reproduced, meaning they may have been the last generation of the bluefin tuna.
Amanda Nickson, of the Pew Environment Group, which produced the latest report, said: "There is no logical way a fishery can have such a high level of fishing on juveniles and continue."
She said that urgent measures needed to be taken in order to preserve stocks and allow them to recover. "The population of Pacific bluefin is a small fraction of what it used to be and is in danger of all but disappearing," she said. "It's a highly valuable natural commodity and people naturally want to fish something that gives them such a high return."
She called for fishing of the species to be halted as a matter of urgency. Although there are measures to manage the exploitation of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic, and some measures in the eastern Pacific, the main spawning ground for Pacific bluefin tuna in the western part of that ocean is not managed. The main fishing fleets exploiting the stocks are from Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the US, and the high value of the few remaining fish is a further encouragement to fishermen to hunt down the last of the species. A single specimen could make the catchers rich for life, and without catch limits and rigorous enforcement, there is nothing to stop fishermen pursuing them.
Nickson said: "This assessment shows just how bad the situation really is for this top predator. This highly valuable fish is being exploited at almost every stage of its life cycle. Fishing continues on the spawning grounds of this heavily overfished tuna species."
About two-thirds of the world's tuna comes from the Pacific, but bluefin tuna accounts for only about 1% of this. For years, the species was neglected in fisheries management, being lumped in with other more prolific species. But in recent years it has become clear that it was in danger, from overfishing and its own biology - being bigger than other tuna, it takes longer to come to sexual maturity, which scientists estimate takes between four and eight years, which limits its reproductive ability and makes it more vulnerable to the predations of modern industrialised fishing techniques.


Friday, January 11, 2013

'Extinction threat' for UK orcas

From BBC News:  'Extinction threat' for UK orcas

The UK's only known resident population of killer whales is at risk of becoming extinct, marine life experts fear.
The group, which ranges from the north and west coast of Scotland to Ireland's west coast, is thought to contain just nine older animals.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) said the group was at risk as a result of the "skewed" demographics.
The One Show is set to broadcast the last of a series of three features on the killer whales on Wednesday.
Presenter Mike Dilger and his crew were able to track down the group with help from Dr Andy Foote, a scientist who is studying genetics and genomics of killer whales at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
Dr Foote has been carrying out collaborative research work with HWDT.
The trust's biodiversity officer Olivia Harries said the studies suggested the killer whales had become isolated from other groups in the north east Atlantic.
Killer whale The killer whale group is aged and dominated by males
She said: "The group demographics are highly skewed to older individuals and there is an unusually high ratio of adult males.
"Recruitment is therefore unlikely and the females are probably post-reproductive.
"This means that these killer whales are due to go extinct in our lifetime."
In Tuesday's programme, Mr Dilger said three different groups of killer whales visit UK waters.
However, the Scottish population is the only one which remained all year round.
He added: "With just nine individuals and a home range stretching from the Outer Hebrides to Galway on the west of Ireland, to find them at all is simply astounding."
Mr Dilger said the group comprised of five females and four males.
He said: "They haven't had a calf, or baby, for 20 years.
"It is thought killer whales are one of the few animals that goes through the female menopause and they might be too old and past breeding potential.
"So in our lifetime they could die out."


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A pod of killer whales is trapped by sea ice in northern Quebec and only Mother Nature can free them

From The Province:  A pod of killer whales is trapped by sea ice in northern Quebec and only Mother Nature can free them

MONTREAL — About a dozen orcas spent Wednesday circling a hole in the sea ice in northern Quebec, taking turns breathing.
They’re trapped, and human intervention is unlikely to save them.
Peter Inukpuk, mayor of the Quebec village of Inukjuak, urged the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to smash nearby floes to help the mammals reach open water.
But Inukpuk told The Canadian Press later in the day that DFO has informed him the icebreakers are too far from the area for such a mission.
Killer whales trapped by sea ice in norther Quebec
Video footage taken by residents showed the massive animals thrusting themselves skyward through an opening in the ice as they gasped for air from their blowholes.
Locals say about a dozen orcas gathered around the hole — which was slightly bigger than a pickup truck — amid their desperate bid to take in oxygen.
Now, Inukpuk is hoping a strong wind will come out of the east to push the floating ice far away enough from shore to free the killer whales.
“But that is (an) act of God and not in our control,” Inukpuk said.
“For me, anything that can help. I’m trying to look left and right and finally I went upstairs.”
Inukpuk plans to talk with DFO on Thursday by phone to see if any other course of action is possible.
In a brief statement Wednesday, the federal department said it was assessing the situation with partners and experts in the region. It’s unclear if any DFO action will be taken.
“Situations where marine mammals are trapped by the ice are not unusual in the North,” DFO spokeswoman Nathalie Letendre wrote in an email.
Killer whales trapped by sea ice in norther Quebec
Inukpuk said it was on Tuesday that a hunter from his village first spotted the pod of trapped orcas at the hole, which is some 30 kilometres from town. Inukjuak, on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, is about 1,500 kilometres north of Montreal.
Word of the unusual spectacle spread quickly though the village, prompting dozens of locals to make the one-hour snowmobile ride Tuesday to the scene.
They snapped photos and shot video footage of the killer whales bobbing to the surface in the opening — and sometimes rocketing half their bodies straight up out of the hole as they took in oxygen.
Curious locals who didn’t make Tuesday’s trip gathered at a community centre that night to watch videos of the scene.
“Our people asked for a prayer for these killer whales,” said Inukpuk, whose village is home to 1,800 people. “Our local people are very much concerned.”
Killer whales trapped by sea ice in norther Quebec
One woman who made the journey to the gap in the ice said even a curious polar bear approached the hole amid the orcas’ commotion. Siasie Kasudluak said the bear was eventually shot by a hunter and the meat was shared among locals.
The trapped orcas, meanwhile, appeared to be in distress and the people were ill-equipped to help out. Time also appeared to be running out, as the hole seemed to be shrinking in the -30 C temperature, Kasudluak said.
“It was amazing, but they needed air and it’s very touching,” said Kasudluak, who stood on the ice with close to 50 other people from Inukjuak.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we would love to see them free.”
Killer whales trapped by sea ice in norther Quebec
Another woman who saw the animals up close said the orcas appeared to cycle around the opening in an attempt to keep it from freezing over.
Marina Lacasse, who estimated the hole was slightly larger than a pickup truck, also said the creatures would pop up for breaths and then disappear under the ice for several minutes, probably in a frenzied search for open water.
“It was kind of hard to see whether the whales would find the open water because I think it’s frozen all the way now,” said Lacasse, who noted that one of the killer whales appeared to be bleeding.
Locals returned to the site Wednesday to see if they could remove some of the ice from the edge of the hole — or carve a new opening — with chainsaws, chisels and snowmobiles, the mayor said.
But Inukpuk fears such an undertaking so close to the stressed beasts could be dangerous.
“At times they are in a panicked state where the ice around them is moving,” said Inukpuk, who hadn’t yet visited the site himself.
“But one thing we know is that any species that we encounter here — especially large species like a polar bear — if we agitate them, then they get ferocious.”
Killer whales trapped by sea ice in norther Quebec
He said killer whales are rarely spotted near Inukjuak, but hunters have returned home with tales over the years of having their canoes followed by the animals.
Inukpuk believes the recent sudden drop in temperature caught the orcas off guard, leaving them boxed in under the ice.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) says the Northwest Atlantic/Eastern Arctic population of killer whales was designated as a species of “special concern,” according to its website. The special concern tag means the species may become threatened or endangered due to biological characteristics and other threats.
COSEWIC estimates the population has fewer than 1,000 mature adults and says it’s likely the actual number is smaller than 250.
The region’s limited orca population could be one reason why killer whale is not part of the diet in Inukjuak, where people hunt wildlife like beluga and polar bear for food.
Another reason could be the taste, the mayor said.
“We hear they’re not good to eat and their blubber and skin are not good to eat,” said Inukpuk, adding that it’s not in the community’s interest to kill the orcas.
“We just want to make sure that they’re safe and hopefully we can find means to get them safe.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Posts resume Thursday

I know I've been saying this periodically but this will be the last time I say it...I'm visiting relatives and although they have Wi fi I don't have a private room to work.

I'll be home Thursaday and will get back into the swing of things then.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Where'd my catch go? Spectacular photo captures moment great white is gobbled by an EVEN BIGGER shark as it's hauled into fisherman's boat

From DailyMailOnline: Where'd my catch go? Spectacular photo captures moment great white is gobbled by an EVEN BIGGER shark as it's hauled into fisherman's boat 

Being hooked by a fisherman is probably up there with the worst things that could happen to a shark. But what about becoming bait for an even bigger beast as you're being hauled into the boat?
This was the fate of a poor great white in New Zealand this week.

And a spectacular photograph of the encounter, which shows Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest - or perhaps biggest - theory in action, has taken the web by storm after it was posted on Reddit.
Chomp: The Kiwi fisherman took the spectacular photo, pictured, on December 28
Chomp: The Kiwi fisherman took the spectacular photo, pictured, on December 28, and posted it on Reddit

The decent-sized shark was hooked in the waters near Kaiteriteri during a post-Christmas expedition on December 28.

The fisherman, whose Reddit name is Mancubus, was probably pretty chuffed with his catch and daydreaming about a fish and chip dinner, with the shark firmly on the end of the line.

But that was before he had competition.
The Kiwi didn't even have time to haul his catch onto the deck before the smaller shark was in the jaws of the monster predator.
Shark waters: The epic photo was captured in the waters near Kaiteriteri, New Zealand, pictured
Shark waters: The epic photo was captured in the waters near Kaiteriteri, New Zealand, pictured
The larger shark, also a Great White, had obviously decided he'd be the one to gobble the fish up.

It is unclear exactly what happened next, though the fisherman presumably cut his losses and the line, losing his catch.

However, he did escape with the epic image, which immediately shot to Reddit's front page and has garnered also 1000 comments since.

It's not uncommon for sharks to prey upon each other, but it's rarely caught in such a daring fashion.

Now we know what it looks like to be bait for such a beast, it's probably best not to go swimming too far from the New Zealand coast any time soon.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Study: No Evidence Of Increasing Jellyfish Population Over Last Two Centuries

From Underwater Times: Study: No Evidence Of Increasing Jellyfish Population Over Last Two Centuries 

giant jellyfish bloom japan
This image shows giant jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) clogging fishing nets in Japan. Credit: Dr. Shin-ichi Uye

SOUTHAMPTON, England -- Scientists have cast doubt on the widely held perception that there has been a global increase in jellyfish.
Blooms, or proliferations, of jellyfish can show a substantial, visible impact on coastal populations – clogged nets for fishermen, stinging waters for tourists, even choked cooling intake pipes for power plants – and recent media reports have created a perception that the world's oceans are experiencing trending increases in jellyfish. Now, a new multinational collaborative study, involving the University of Southampton, suggests these trends may be overstated, finding that there is no robust evidence for a global increase in jellyfish over the past two centuries.
The results of the study, which includes lead co-author Dr Cathy Lucas, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton, appear in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS manuscript # 2012-10920R).
The key finding of the study shows global jellyfish populations undergo concurrent fluctuations with successive decadal periods of rise and fall, including a rising phase in the 1990s and early 2000s that has contributed to the current perception of a global increase in jellyfish abundance. The previous period of high jellyfish numbers during the 1970s went unnoticed due to limited research on jellyfish at the time, less awareness of global-scale problems and a lower capacity for information sharing (e.g. no Internet).
While there has been no increase over the long-term, the authors detected a hint of a slight increase in jellyfish since 1970, although this trend was countered by the observation that there was no difference in the proportion of increasing vs. decreasing jellyfish populations over time.
Dr Cathy Lucas, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, says: "Sustained monitoring is now required over the next decade to shed light with statistical confidence whether the weak increasing linear trend in jellyfish populations after 1970 is an actual shift in the baseline or part of a larger oscillation."
To date, media and scientific opinion for the current perception of a global increase in jellyfish was evidenced by a few local and regional case studies. Although there are areas where jellyfish have increased; the situation with the Giant Jellyfish in Japan and parts of the Mediterranean are classic examples, there are also areas where jellyfish numbers have remained stable, fluctuated over decadal periods, or actually decreased over time.
Increased speculation and discrepancies about current and future jellyfish blooms by the media and in climate and science reports formed the motivation for the study. "There are major consequences for getting the answer correct for tourism, fisheries and management decisions as they relate to climate change and changing ocean environments," says Dr Lucas. "The important aspect about our work is that we have provided the long-term baseline backed with all data available to science, which will enable scientists to build on and eventually repeat these analyses in a decade or two from now to determine whether there has been a real increase in jellyfish."
"The realization that jellyfish synchronously rise and fall around the world should now lead researchers to search for the long-term natural and climate drivers of jellyfish populations, in addition to begin monitoring jellyfish in open ocean and Southern Hemisphere regions that are underrepresented in our analyses," says lead author Dr Rob Condon, marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) in Alabama.
Given the potential damage posed by jellyfish blooms to fisheries, tourism and other human industries, the findings of the group foretell recurrent phases of rise and fall in jellyfish populations that society should be prepared to face.