THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:Two departments in Kerala University Kariavattom campus will begin a three-year research project to study jellyfish blooms, which cause a dip in the catch of fish. Kerala State Council of Science, Technology and Environment has awarded a `25 lakh project to Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries as well as Centre for Venom Informatics, Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.
To underscore the effect jellyfish blooms have on sardine (‘mathi’) catch, A Biju Kumar, Head, Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, quotes a study which Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute published in 2015. According to the study, jellyfish blooms devour on the plankton stages of sardine in large quantities. This does not just affect the recruitment of sardine, but screws up the entire food chain as plankton is also food for small fish species. “ Scientists started taking note of jellyfish blooms only in the past five or six years. The Madras Atomic Power Station, at Kalpakkam, had reported a problem of jellyfish clogging water inlets at the plant. A couple of years ago, swarms of dead jellyfish were washed ashore at Shangumugham. Now, the reports of blooms are more frequent, and that’s where this study will be helpful,” said Biju Kumar. The project ‘Taxonomic Diversity, Venom Characterization and Environmental Impacts of Jellyfish Blooms Along Kerala Coast’ will primarily start working on the documentation of jellyfish species off Kerala coast. The researchers will identify which type of jellyfish species have the tendency to form a bloom. They will also work on the characteristics of the venom of various jellyfish species. “ In Philippines, every day a person dies because of jellyfish sting. In Australia, there is a set of safe practices to protect people from jellyfish attacks,” Biju Kumar added.
Research conducted in western waters show that many of the causes for jellyfish blooms are manmade. Eutrophication or water becoming rich in nutrients, introduction of exotic species and overfishing are some reasons. “ Reduction in bill fish and dolphin fish as well as marine turtles, might create a conducive condition for a jellyfish, as these are some of its very few predators,” said Biju Kumar.