Alien invasion or misunderstood ocean dweller?

Elusive Jellyfish going about their daily business

Greentings Everyone! Today’s post will be dedicated to an elusive creature that lurks in the dark corners of our oceans. So mysterious and illusive, that to this day, it remains one of the most intriguing creatures that we have been blessed or cursed with having roam our waters. A creature that may represent an imminent threat to a fragile biosphere — sting, or a helping hand to those in need—if you are a juvenile fish that is. If it were a tab on Google Chrome, it would have to be the Incognito tab, transparent but seen at the same time. Yes people, you have guessed it right, we are talking about the Jellyfish.

95% Water, 5% jelly frame, 100% reason to remember the name

A Jellyfish may be fascinating to watch, effortlessly drifting in the water, so elegant and majestic… but it can also— depending on the Jellyfish, pack a deadly punch. I did not mean to personify, you get the picture though, sting! With over 2000 different types of Jellyfish and only 70 of these being considered dangerous to humans, chances are you will make it out of your encounter with one of these creatures unscathed. You may ask— why am I even writing about this blob of jelly that lurks in the dark corners of our oceans, aren’t there more pressing topics to discuss? Well, the answer to that is yes, but aside from the fact that I needed to find a pretext to share some awesome photos of Jellyfish that I took recently, I also thought that these misunderstood creatures deserve a shout out for all the good that they do in keeping a balance between predators and their prey.

Predator or unseeming Prey?

Unlike us humans, Jellyfish do have to watch their backs, or they will end up on the figurative plate for dinner. Countless species of fish, turtles and even penguins rely on them for sustenance. A cup of live Jellyfish may only provide 3 calories, but the calories saved during the hunt and the ease in digestion may provide a sneak peek into their allure. While the bell of the Jellyfish consists mainly of water, their reproductive tissues are protein rich and can provide the necessary energy to keep going during lean times. Having lived in Asia, primarily in China and travelled across Southeast Asia, jellyfish are a local staple and when done properly, can turn out to be a rather wholesome dish. Not only are they important the world over as an important source of food, these jelly like creatures also play a decisive role in providing habitat and space for developing larval and juvenile fish, creating a perfect symbiosis.

Explosive population growth

As climate change warms our oceans and fish stock across the planet become depleted to the verge of extinction, what we are witnessing is an explosion in Jellyfish numbers. These resilient creatures, who can thrive in warmer waters and evade capture by their ever-shrinking natural predator fish populations, are on a rampage across our oceans. With Jellyfish blooms being reported across our planet, it can be said that Jellyfish have in fact become a plague and it is morally OK to eat them if only to place their population back in check. Is eating them the way forward, or are we just covering up major challenges presenting themselves at the ground level? Shouldn’t we instead, help struggling fish populations achieve the numbers that they once had, bringing back the Jellyfish’s natural predators and reaching the balance that once was.  Maybe even striving for more meaningful targets in reducing our global footprint—as humans of course, thus affecting climate change in a positive way. Eating these creatures to extinction may seem like the easy way out, but it could and most probably will have consequences that we cannot predict at this stage. As an avid scuba diver, I have learned the hard way to avoid Jellyfish and I will continue to do so, whether it be out in the ocean waters or at the friendly neighborhood restaurant.

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