In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, there is an article about the concern over the oceans jellifying; that is, becoming overloaded with jellyfish. It is maybe the scariest thing I have read regarding the consequences not only of climate change, but of our use of the earth and its resources.
I have seen jellyfish displays at aquariums and they are truly beautiful creatures. Translucent, often, or even transparent, floating in the current, they are otherworldly. They can also be deadly; the box jellyfish native to the waters off Northern Australia are the most venomous creatures on earth. They are about a foot across; the tentacles can be 550 feet long, and to be touched by 15-20 feet of the tentacles gives you, at most, 4 minutes to live. In 2009, a Japanese fishing boat capsized when they pulled in a net filled with giant jellyfish, the largest at 450 pounds.
Nuclear power plants are plagued with jellyfish clogging the intake valves for cooling; ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, was disabled by jellyfish. By the 1980s, jellyfish, which arrived in ballast water from a US ship, invaded the Black Sea. By 2002, the weight of these jellyfish in the Black Sea was estimated to be greater than the weight of ALL the fish caught in the entire world that year. The Black sea was essentially jellified. Only when another jellyfish invaded and wiped out the earlier one, did the sea regain some health.
Climate change is one cause – hard-shelled creatures that eat jellyfish are dwindling due to the acidification of the oceans. Over fishing has made space for jellyfish blooms and is another cause. Detritus in the ocean – plastics – have created ideal growing platforms for jellyfish larva.
Ever been stung by a jellyfish? I have and it hurts. There are days when people can’t go in the water because of jellyfish blooms. What if jellyfish wiped out the salmon, halibut, and tuna stocks, the anchovies and the mackerel, the sea bass and the sardine?
Our 7th Principle calls for respect for the interdependent web of all existence, and there might be no more important issue for our future than the whole complex of environmental concerns. Everyone of us has to take responsibility in everyway we can.
And maybe learn how to cook jellyfish. Here are some recipes:
-Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson