Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Are There So Many Jellyfish in the Sound, the Hudson, the Atlantic?

There are some good, informed guesses in the Times this morning as to why jellyfish seem to be here earlier and in greater numbers than in other years. And not srprisingly it's not just Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay that seem to have been invaded. The Hudson River, Sandy Hook, Barnegat Bay -- prett much anywhere along the coast in the greater metro area you can find jellies, particularly lion's mane jellies.

Here's the Times story, and here are some excerpts:

Kenneth W. Able, director of the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton, N.J., said the early arrival could have something to do with recent winds from the south that blew away the sea’s warmer surface water, allowing an upwelling of cold water, which the lion’s mane loves.

Edward Enos, the superintendent of the Aquatic Resources Division for the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., said conditions may have been perfect for an unusual number of baby jellyfish, called polyps, to survive.

“It’s nature,” Mr. Enos said. “It’s like some years you have beautiful, big blooms of dandelions in your yard, and sometimes not.”...

Jim Gilmore, director of marine resources for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said that last Friday he started receiving calls about jellyfish. On Monday, he got a lot. Most years he doesn’t get jellyfish reports until August, he said.

John Lipscomb, a patrol boat operator for the Hudson Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said he saw a lion’s mane in the Harlem River for the first time last Monday. It was floating in a slew of garbage in the river.

“I looked over and in this massive soup of trash and debris was this beautiful pulsating jellyfish,” he said.

John Waldman, a professor of biology at Queens College, said that jellyfish may have moved upriver because of a lack of rain this year, which has pushed the salt water further upstream....

Mr. Grant, of the Sandy Hook Ocean Institute, said he first noticed them in April when young jellyfish the size of golf balls were turning up in fishing nets.

“This is a banner year if you like the look of jellyfish,” he said on Saturday afternoon after having netted a specimen, six inches in diameter, in the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina.

Born in cold northern waters, the lion’s mane drifts south with ocean currents and turns rust-colored from the algae and zooplankton it eats, Mr. Grant said. Already there have been nuisance complaints about them in Rhode Island in April and in Connecticut this month. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation said Monday that no beaches had been closed but some, including Robert Moses, Crab Meadow and West Neck, all on Long Island, had posted jellyfish advisories....

Mr. Grant hypothesized that more nutrients in the water, a result of sewage, rainwater runoff and fertilizers from the growing population in the Northeast, may have created more “jellyfish food.” He added that in 25 years of researching the waters around Sandy Hook, he had seen jellyfish populations cycle about every five years.

The jellyfish will likely be around through September, when they reach the end of their life cycle, Mr. Grant said.



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