By Maria Gregoriou
A RESEARCH centre is asking for the public’s help in locating jellyfish in Cyprus’ coastal waters, which have been growing in population during recent years in the Mediterranean.
The Jellywatch research programme falls under the auspices of the University of Cyprus’ (UCY) oceanography centre that monitors jellyfish populations in Cyprus.
“We ask the public to send a photo of jellyfish, if available, when cited and also to tell us where it was located. This will help us gain more knowledge about the kinds of jellyfish in our local waters and also expand our scientific knowledge about the ecology of jellyfish,” said George Fyttis, a research scientist with the UCY’s oceanography centre.
“When we know more, then we can decide how to better deal with the problems created by the increasing population of jellyfish,” Fyttis added.
An increased number of jellyfish translates to more fish or other organisms such as zooplankton being eaten, leaving less food for smaller fish. Jellyfish also prey on these smaller fish and so reduce the population of those fish.
“Jellyfish also cause problems to fishermen as they get tangled in nets and may break them,” Fyttis said. The most problematic factor is how certain species of jellyfish affect the tourism industry, as they sting,” Fyttis said.
Another serious problem is that jellyfish clog-up tubes of plants that remove salt and other minerals from the sea and from power stations. An example of such destruction happened in the summer of 2011 in Israel when jellyfish blocked the underwater tubes of the Orot Rabin power station. The station was closed for five days while one tonne of jellyfish per hour were removed from the pipes.
The increase in population is caused by higher temperatures in the ocean and by overfishing. Several species breed in warm waters from spring until autumn and overfishing has decreased jellyfish predators such as, tuna.
Jellywatch is a programme organised by the International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean (CIESM), an organisation consisting of 22 countries, of which ten are involved in Jellywatch. The programme was initially implemented in 2008 on a pilot basis which later spread across the Mediterranean to identify and monitor jellyfish. Cyprus has been participating since 2011. Jellywatch recorded the existence of the jellyfish species Cassiopea, Carybdea, Chrysaora, Rhopilema, Pelagia noctiluca and Aurelia aurita species in Cyprus in 2012. Some of these jellyfish may sting but none of them will cause serious bodily harm.
“There are no serious problems with jellyfish so far in Cyprus. The only sighting of a bloom of jellyfish was on 21 April 2012 when around 100 jellyfish were seen in the Protaras areas,” Fyttis said.
He added no sighting have been recorded yet this year.
The centre asks members of the public who see any of the species of jellyfish shown on the poster, take a photo and send it to [email protected] along with the observer’s name and telephone number, where it was seen, a rough number of jellyfish seen, a rough estimation of the distance between the jellyfish and if the observation was made during fishing, diving, swimming, walking on the shore or any other activity.
Jellyfish have been in the ocean for about 540 million years, before the existence of dinosaurs. They can survive in cold and warm ocean water and even freshwater.