Warmer and more acid seas cause huge blooms of jellyfish, but scientists are working on ways to convert them into something useful
November 7, 2017 — The combination of climate change and overfishing is causing a population explosion in jellyfish. Since there are fewer fish to eat them, they appear off the British coast in vast swarms. This is a threat to nuclear power stations – because they can block the intake of cooling water – and to fish farms, where thousands get caught in the netting, sometimes killing hundreds of salmon by depriving them of oxygen.
Some species are poisonous, and so caution is required when jellyfish float next to you in the sea or are stranded on beaches. Their sting can be powerful.
With the problem worsening as the seas get both more acid and warmer, the European Union has decided it needs to better understand how these blooms occur and think of a way of stopping them before they reach our coastal waters.
Since the potential mass of these blooms in Europe is enormous – already 1bn tons for one imported species, the American comb jelly (Mnemiopsis leidyi) – the EU also wants to find a way of utilising this potential resource.
Scientists from 15 institutions have been allocated €6m (£5.3m) over four years to try and find a way of converting them into something useful. One idea is processing them into food for fish farms, or better still, thinking of a way to make them less slimy and presenting them as a human food.
Other suggestions include converting them into cosmetics, since they contain collagen, much used in skin creams, or using their sticky mucus to tackle another environmental problem – microplastic. Jellyfish biofilters fixed to sewage outfalls could capture the plastic before it reached the sea.