Science By the Sea, the non-profit organization, reported that White Spotted Jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata) were seen in waters between Wrightsville Beach and Beaufort, North Carolina since late September. The invasive species are native to Australia and the Philippines, yet have slowly made their way into the southeastern coastal region of the United States.
Experts encouraged locals to "feel free to scoop them out of the water and deposit on land" if the jellyfish are spotted since the species has a negative impact on the east coast. On September 29, Jake Davis took a photo of one jellyfish saying that it was about two or three feet long.
According to the Texas Invasive Species Institute, the species is known to travel in large swarms and disrupt the food web. The consume larval fish, shrimp, and large areas of plankton, affected marine ecosystems on the east coast.
A single white-spotted jellyfish can clear up to 50 cubic meters of plankton in one day. They can also disturb fishermen by clogging fishnets, ruin fishing gear, and damaging boat intakes.
Jellyfish Causing Serious Damage
Jellyfish were also responsible for shutting down a nuclear power plant in Scotland after they blocked the cooling filters of two reactors in 2011. They also caused the shutdown of the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in Sweden, where the largest boiling-water reactor is located, in 2013.
In 1999, jellyfish caused a blackout in the northern island of Luzon in the Philippines. During the pandemic, thousands of pink jellyfish were spotted in Palawan waters as the beaches lacked human activity. In the Pacific, polyp-eating snails help control jellyfish populations, which are not present in North American waters.
Despite their invasive activity in local marine ecosystems, their venom is not toxic to humans and only result in a mild sting. The species were found in Hawaii's waters during the 1940s, then in California by 1981 and slowly made their way to the Gulf of Mexico by 2000. It is believed that polyps, their young developmental stage, attached themselves to ships and multiplied in the gulf.
Global Invasive Species
Warmer waters also attract the species, which may explain why they've been found further north due to ocean temperatures affected by global warming. Warmer global temperatures are also causing jellyfish blooms since they can thrive in changing ocean conditions such as lower oxygen levels.
In a study about invasive species, researchers from the University College London predicted that by 2050, there will be a 36% global increase of invasive species since 2005. With jellyfish consuming the food source of multiple marine animals, there may be a serious decline in fish populations, affecting the food market as well.
The institute also noted that little is known about managing the jellyfish populations. Capturing live jellyfish may help, but fishermen have other priorities. Continual reports of the white-spotted jellyfish can help authorities estimate their population on the east coast and determine if further actions need to be taken to get rid of the invasive species.
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