Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jellyfish Heaven

It is perhaps fitting that we have received so many wonderful crafted jellyfish for our Northwest Atlantic sea floor display. After all, jellyfish are an abundant source of food for many marine creatures. At 95 percent water, they aren’t packed with nutrients, but the sheer mass of jellies that can be found in one area makes them worthwhile prey for the likes of leatherback turtles, swordfish, salmon and tuna. In turn, many of these jelly-munchers become available as food for other animals – including the voracious homo sapiens.

Alarmingly though, scientists have warned that human impacts - from overfishing to climate change - are creating a sort of jellyfish heaven under the sea. These gelatinous wonders are extremely well-poised to fill important ecological vacancies left by fish higher on the food chain in the wake of disrupted marine food webs. Already, massive and long-lasting jellyfish “blooms” have begun to appear in various places where productive fisheries and diverse ecosystems once existed. These jelly swarms are astonishingly dense, disrupting shipping routes and bursting trawler nets.

As veteran University of British Columbia fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly has long advised, if we don’t change the way we fish, we’ll fish our way down marine food webs and end up dependent on a diet of “peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches.” Indeed, Atlantic Canadians have already witnessed the beginning of this transition – since cod stocks collapsed, many fishermen have switched to invertebrates like lobster, crab and shrimp.

If you are near Halifax, Nova Scotia, please join the Ecology Action Centre and St. Mary’s University in welcoming intrepid author and adventurer Taras Grescoe, who will be reading from his new book about sustainable seafood called Bottomfeeder on June 11th and 12th. After a year-long sojourn around the globe in search of ethical seafood, he has concluded that we need to “give big fish a break” and eat lower on the marine food chain. While a diet of jellyfish is not likely to feed the world, choosing lower-trophic species such as mackerel, herring and sustainably farmed shellfish can help us to restore the dynamic biodiversity so crucial to ocean health - and to future generations of seafood eaters.

41 comments:

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sea animals

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