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 Climate change, more jellyfish

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PostSubject: Climate change, more jellyfish   Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:55 am

KOKONOGI (JAPAN) - A BLOOD-ORANGE blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass.

The fishermen leaned into the nets, grunting and grumbling as they tossed the translucent jellyfish back into the bay, giants weighing up to 200kg and measuring up to 2m in diameter, marine invaders that are putting the men's livelihoods at risk.

Scientists believe climate change - the warming of oceans - has allowed some of the almost 2,000 jellyfish species to expand their ranges, appear earlier in the year and increase overall numbers, much as warming has helped ticks, bark beetles and other pests to spread to new latitudes.

The gelatinous seaborne creatures are blamed for decimating fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas, forcing the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, and terrorizing beachgoers worldwide, the US National Science Foundation says.

Increasingly polluted waters - off China, for example - boost growth of the microscopic plankton that 'jellies' feed upon, while overfishing has eliminated many of the jellyfish's predators and cut down on competitors for plankton feed.

The invasions cost the industry up to 30 billion yen (S$463.85 million) a year, and tens of thousands of fishermen have sought government compensation, said scientist Shin-ichi Uye, Japan's leading expert on the problem. -- AP

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/TechandScience/Story/STIStory_454991.html

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