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British scientists hope a groundbreaking new project will help their country face down one of its most urgent threats -- a major jellyfish invasion. Called "EcoJel," the project will, for the first time, examine the impacts massive swarms are having on Britain's aquaculture, fisheries and tourism industries, reports The Independent's Michael McCarthy.
Researchers from the universities of Swansea and Cork will deploy the latest imaging and modeling technologies, tagging the jellyfish with data loggers that record variables like water temperature and depth, and study their movement and life cycles. The first such scheme to be approved under the European Union's Ireland/Wales program, EcoJel will be funded through a £575,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
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"There is very little known about jellyfish despite the fact that jellyfish blooms may be increasing because of climate change and over-fishing, which could have huge socio-economic impacts (. . .) The EcoJel project will allow a broad-scale assessment of the ecosystem role of jellyfish in the Irish Sea. The studies will help to inform management decisions for this area," said Graeme Hays, a professor at Swansea University's School of Environment and Society.
The scientists believe the depletion of fisheries stocks, and thus juvenile fish (which feed on the same plankton as the jellyfish), could be a major factor in the jellyfish swarms' resurgence. They hope to bring the public into the project by having beachgoers collect and return data loggers washed ashore.
This wouldn't be the first time we've written about jellyfish invasions. As Mairi noted last year, jellyfish swarms have been appearing all over Europe, stinging beachgoers and killing large numbers of fish. They've already taken over the Black Sea, where they now constitute 90 percent of the biomass.
Via ::The Independent: Jellyfish invasion: Britain to fight them on the beaches (news website)