Missing Jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Missing Jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay

Updated:

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Susan Meredith said if there is one thing she normally does for all the customers renting her boats at Blackwater Paddle and Pedal along the Choptank River in Cambridge, "We send them right up river.  They don't want to see any sea nettles, they are scared to death of them."

That's because just upriver, the water isn't salty enough for the jellies, and they are nowhere to be seen.  But this year she doesn't have to do that, because there are not any to be seen anywhere in the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries like the Choptank.

Jacqueline Tay, a student at the University of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, has been studying the local sea nettle species, chrysaora quinquecirrha, for several years.  She said when she started, sea nettles were a common sight in the river.

"Every time you would go out there would be anywhere from 30 to 300 jellyfish in a small area.  And it's been low since then," Tay said.

And when sea nettles are low, it usually comes with a price.

"They eat zooplankton, they eat copopods, the same food that fish eat.  They also eat another jellyfish in the bay called the ctenophore.  The prevailing thought is that if there aren't many sea nettles, then there are a lot of ctenophores.  And that's a bad thing for the ecosystem." explained Tay.

Bad because the ctenophores eat considerably more zooplankton, leaving less food for the fish.  But good news, they are nowhere to be found either.

While it may sound like a crisis, the head of the jellyfish program at Horn Point, Dr. Raleigh Hood, thinks it's just a cycle.

"We don't have any evidence to suggest that there's links between year to year in terms of population size.  as far as we know, the population we have this year and how big it will be next year are largely independent of each other," Hood said.

So for this year, swimmers in the bay get a free pass, and Susan Meredith is glad to hear it.

"I'm glad.  The less jellyfish, the more swimming, the more people want to go out on the water," Meredith said. "You know it scares people out of the water when they see that or take their family tubing.  It deters people so I'm absolutely thrilled."

"Good year to be a swimmer on the Chesapeake Bay," Hood said.

There are a few theories on where the jellyfish are.  Some hypothesize the cold spring killed off a large portion of the jellyfish, and some think that perhaps they are farther north.  The scientists are working, as they always have, to find out more about this mysterious species that seems to be missing in the chesapeake bay.


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