to Australian coastal waters, the Spotted Jellyfish (Phyllorhiza
punctata) have been migrating to the Caribbean for the past
two decades, but have not been seen this far north. Their coastal
invasion began in early June when it is believed the jellies, caught
in the "Loop Current" that circulates through the Gulf, broke off
the Loop into an eddy south of Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
Satellite imagery from the Naval Research Laboratory at the Stennis
Space Center confirms this.
present time the jellies seem to have taken up residence and spread
out across the Mississippi Sound and along the Louisiana and Texas
coasts to the west side of the Mississippi River. Arial surveys
have shown that these jellyfish congregate in large patches - in
some cases more than 2,000 jellyfish clustering in an area the size
of a football field.
to this invasion, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is
providing $10,000 in emergency research funding to learn more about
these invaders and their potential threat. Graham and Harriet Perry,
Director of the Center for Fisheries Research & Development at the
Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, MS are heading up the
only in the early stages of their investigation, they have already
found indications that the jellies are reproductively active and
growing to their large size due to the algae-rich Mississippi Sound.
this species of jellyfish only grows to six or eight inches in diameter,"
says Perry. "Some of the things we investigating are how widespread
the invasion is, what their feeding habits are, how much they eat,
and whether they can survive over the winter months in the Gulf
they can survive and become a new permanent resident to the northern
Gulf of Mexico is a big question waiting to be answered.
do survive the winter, next year the problems they cause will be
much more serious then we are seeing now," predicts Graham. "These
jellies and their effect on the Gulf's environment and commercial
fisheries could be one of the area's biggest problems next year."