Entering the Cnidaricene Age-Humanity Is Creating Ideal Conditions for Jellyfish to Rule the Oceans

A deep-sea diver fits a giant Nomura's jellyfish with a sensor that will transmit data about the depth and temperature of the waters it visits.

According to the report 'The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals' by an international team of marine scientists at the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) found that the world's oceans and marine life are facing an unprecedented threat by combination of industrial pollution, human-driven global warming and climate change, and continued and rampant overfishing.

The scientists recently found, the rate of acidification in the oceans is the highest its been in over 300 million years. Additionally, de-oxygenation--caused by both warming and industrial runoff--is stripping the ocean of its ability to support the plants and animals that live in it...but are ideal conditions for Gaia's next reaction to the forcing being put on it by humans, jellyfish.

First perhaps came Gaia's atmospheric phalanx, the air war. Now we're seeing another front open up, Gaia has enlisted the potential of King Neptune's legions. "Jellyfish are opportunistic creatures; the key to their 500-million-year success is their adaptability. Once jellies get to a new habitat, they're very good at sliding in and taking advantage of excess food." says Monty Graham, an assistant professor of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama.

Excess food, according to Graham and other researchers, is often a result of overharvesting of the fish that feed on the same resources. Eutrophication, a process in which nutrient-rich runoff from agriculture, sewage-treatment plants and other sources boosts algae growth, also contributes. The algal blooms, as they're called, reduce the amount of available oxygen in the water, thus killing off competitors like fish. Jellyfish, on the other hand, can thrive in this oxygen-deprived environment.

Biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin blames the recent blooms on the jellyfish's own invincible biological makeup and the usual suspects: us. Overfishing has tipped the balance of complex ecosystems; plastic waste and fishing methods are destroying the few natural jellyfish predators; oil and gas drilling platforms and other floating rubbish serve as jellyfish nurseries; industrial and agricultural waste have caused low oxygen, high nitrogen and rising acidity in oceans in which fish cannot survive, but jellyfish can; and climate change exacerbates it all. Startlingly, Gershwin finds jellyfish displacing penguins in Antarctica, crashing the world’s fisheries and taking over "the oceans as we know them...one bite at a time."

We now see that Gaia, choosing from a near infinite range of responses to our hubris, has the Cnidaricians on the move, invasions of up to four million jellyfish at a time have closed nuclear plants in California, Sweden, Japan and India, as well as causing a Filipino power blackout (coal-fire power plant) and U.S. aircraft carrier shutdown. This past week a several-ton bloom of jellyfish clogged the pipes and shut down Sweden's Oskarshamn plant, one of the world's largest nuclear reactors.

We all should have seen this coming, a few did. One group, Mindil Beach Markets, saw it and started a fantastic free educational outreach program named The Jellyfish Project a few years ago. The Jellyfish Project is an environmental initiative focused on generating awareness about the state of our world’s oceans through music and live performance. The Jellyfish Project is designed to stimulate conversation about a sustainable future. The program is offered FREE of charge to all BC high schools and middle schools. Sessions consist of a performance by the band followed by a discussion period. Topics include overfishing, marine plastics, ocean acidification, and sustainable solutions. If you would like to bring The Jellyfish Project to your school, please email info@thejellyfishproject.org.