The Beacon

The Cockroaches of the Sea

The National Science Foundation has released a special report, rather provocatively titled, "Jellyfish Gone Wild," that details the causes and effects of the growing swarms of jellyfish in the world's oceans.

Dubbed the "cockroaches of the sea," jellyfish are some of the only creatures that can survive in the world's 400 oxygen-starved Dead Zones. They're admirable, in my opinion, and can be quite beautiful. The only problem is, they are also a bellwether for the decline of the sea.

Among the causes for the proliferation of jellies: pollution, climate change, non-native species, overfishing, and finally, the decline of one of their main predators, the sea turtle.

Most sea turtles count jellyfish in their diet, and as you know, all seven sea turtle species are endangered as a result of fishing gear, pollution, beach development, and climate change.

And if this story sounds familiar, that's because it is -- I wrote about it this past summer when one of our marine scientists was on the CBS Early Show talking about jellies.

But here's something I didn't know: Jellyfish swarms do real damage, and not just to your little sister's sensitive skin. They are clogging the pipes of power plants. In the Philippines in 1999, jellyfish clogged the intake pipes of a power plant, sending 40 million people into darkness and sparking rumors of a coup d'etat.

Take a look at the report, it's got a map of swarm locations and some gorgeous photos.


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