Jellyfish under the microscope in bid to curb beach clusters

Jellyfish are being bred in Ireland’s top aquarium in a bid to discover how to stop swarms hitting beaches every summer.

File photo of a jellyfish

Marine biologists in Dingle Oceanworld have been reproducing the relatively harmless moon jellyfish in special tanks for the past few months for a stunning new exhibit in the freshly refurbished Kerry aquarium.

It is thought jellyfish numbers have spiked worldwide as their predators of tuna and turtles are down in numbers. A jellyfish cluster as big as a football pitch was recently captured on film off the Kerry coast.

Director of Dingle Oceanworld, Kevin Flannery, said their exhibit will allow them to study the venomous creatures very closely. He said: “We are growing the moons from start to finish.

“We’ll have them on display. We will have to keep a permanent breeding stock because jellyfish collapse very quickly. We will be studying them. We want to see how they react with fish, if they move with the current, how they react to air bubbles in the water.”

Around the world in recent years, jellyfish have killed 300,000 fish in a Scottish salmon farm overnight, shut down power stations, and incapacitated a US nuclear warship.

Mr Flannery said the phenomenon of massive shoals of jellyfish has been creating havoc. “There are shoals of millions of these in the water. They have wiped out salmon farms this year. They burn the fish.

“People are saying it is climate change, that the stocks of the turtle that were eating them are [down]. I think it is a combination of a lot of things. If the conditions are right they will spawn in one area. We got a huge volume of Jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca [mauve stingers] in Dingle Bay this year. The ideal conditions were here and they all laid their eggs here.”

He is hoping the aquarium’s studies will help come up with a new formula to keep them away from salmon farms and beaches. “We want to see if you put freshwater near the salmon farms, will they swim away?

“If you supersaturate it with oxygen and release air bubbles maybe that will solve it. When you have them in a captive environment you can study this.

“It would save fish farms and there is also a possibility you could keep them away from beaches using a line of aeration [air bubbles]. We will be working on it.”

He said there is also a major interest in jellyfish from the cosmetic industry because of collagen.

And he said the exhibit will also be a visually stunning feature in the aquarium which is home to sharks, penguins and even a loggerhead turtle. He said: “People want to see them. If you see them with proper lighting they are very relaxing.”

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