The Mediterranean Sea is threatened by an invasive species of jellyfish on the Italian shores

2017 - 09 - 20
The Mediterranean Sea is threatened by an invasive species of jellyfish on the Italian shores

Mediterranean waters, increasingly warmer due to climate change and the expansion of the Suez Canal in 2015 both paved the way for the expansion of invasive jellyfish to Italian shores. The species known as Rhopilema nomadica under its scientific name is regarded as a great threat by the European Commission. Tourists in the south of Italy are afraid to swim in the sea because of these creatures.

As a result of global warming, the Italian seas are warmer for longer than in the past, which suits the invasive sea creatures, as does the increased water pollution due to rivers contaminated by industry and agriculture. Overfishing also leads to the spread of the jellyfish by reducing the number of natural predators that could otherwise control the expansive species to a limited level.

The jellyfish jeopardise not only coastal waters near the Italian shores; blooms of jellyfish forced a nuclear power plant in Sweden to shut down in 2013. In the Irish Sea, jellyfish decimated salmon hunting.

According to experts, one of the ways to reduce the invasive jellyfish in numbers is consuming the animal. This is something that has been made easier since the new year by European legislation that has relieved the rules for the distribution of so-called “novel foods”. On the other hand, the Italian Ministry of Health requires thorough research and testing, because the Mediterranean jellyfish are not the same as those consumed in Asia. Italian chefs have tried to sauté and grill the creatures, or to serve them boiled.

“The spread of invasive species is one of the greatest threats that conservation in Europe is facing. The example of the expansive jellyfish shows how easily these problems arise, how quickly they spread, and how extremely difficult it is to solve them,” warns Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organization European Wildlife.

Photo: Wikimedia

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