New Report: Jellyfish Populations Increasing Globally

Apr 23, 2012

Jellyfish populations are on the rise, globally. That’s according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. But, as Ashley Ahearn reports, it’s too soon to say if that’s the case in the Northwest.

The study combines scientific data with anecdotal evidence from fishermen and biologists around the world.

Major hot spots for jellyfish increases? The Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Northeast US, Hawaii and Antarctica.

Lucas Brotz is the lead author on the paper and a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Center. He says there’s probably not one singular explanation for the evident increase in jellies but...

Brotz: "There does, at least from a big picture approach, appear to be some sort of correlation between areas that are highly developed by humans and those areas that show increasing jellyfish populations."

So what about here in the Northwest? Brotz says the findings for this region are less conclusive, though there’s evidence that jellyfish populations may be on the rise.

But that doesn’t entirely line up with some local findings.

Claudia Mills is a researcher at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. She’s been monitoring the population of small jellyfish there for the past 35 years.

Mills: "The numbers are fewer and the species diversity is lower than it was in the 70s."

She says anecdotal evidence is valuable for science, but researchers have to be careful.

Mills: "If you can tease it out there’s certainly information and in terms of historic information, it’s the only thing you’re going to have. How you use it I think is pretty tricky."

This is the first of several studies attempting to get a sense of how jellyfish populations may be changing, globally.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network