“Jellyfish are 95 percent water, but these prehistoric creatures may be the hardiest living beings in the oceans. They are among the small number of species that benefit from overfishing and climate change, and we’re already seeing the effects.
Anecdotal stories of jellyfish blooms suddenly overwhelming a seaside beach or gumming up fishermen’s nets have been growing in recent years, and scientists have confirmed these tales aren’t exaggerations. In fact, in 2006, the African country of Namibia became the first place in the world where scientists proved that a species of five-inch-wide jellies had successfully displaced the country’s fish species. The country’s once-diverse marine life had been overwhelmed by jellies, which outnumbered seafood species such as the sardine and anchovy by a shocking four to one.
Why do jellyfish thrive in the modern era? It’s simple: Overfishing takes away their competition. An area of the Bering Sea–known as America’s ‘fish basket’ as it provides more than half of the country’s domestic seafood–has become so clogged with jellyfish that fisherman now call it ‘Slime Bank.’ And in an unfortunate twist, jellies feast on fish larvae, making it even more difficult for fish to recover from intense fishing pressure.
Thanks to climate change, warming waters also allow jellies to expand their range into areas previously off-limits. That’s why you are more likely than ever to encounter a collection or ‘smack’ of jellies on your snorkeling vacation–some, but not all, of which can sting painfully or even fatally…
Experts say we’re within a century–possibly even less–of inhabiting a world where the only viable seafood left in the oceans will be jellyfish…
There is one easy way to combat jellyfish overpopulation: Eating them. Jellies are a delicacy in Asia; imagine if we turned our massive, industrial fishing power to scooping up rather than avoiding jellies. Anyone in the mood for stew?”