Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Better Tasting Jellyfish Appetizer

Among the things that the bunnies will have to adapt to is the better tasting jellyfish appetizer.  Served everywhere in China, the best anyone has to say for it is that it is tasteless, somewhat like eating boiled rubber bands, but not so flavorful and twice as chewy.  Dano brings the bad news to Rabett Run.

Recently several news stories ran on an incident in Sweden that sounds like one of those old-timey “strange but true” titles: jellyfish clogging the water intakes of a nuclear power plant in Sweden. Just a strange news item, right? Well, no.

What does this incident with jellyfish have to do with the bunnies, anyway? The increasing incidents of jellyfish “invasions”, stings on beaches, and the fantastical occurrences in the Sea of Japan are indirect indicators of ocean health. And ocean health affects us all, even the tiny lagomorphs.

That is: the ecosystem processes that control jellyfish populations are out of whack. Predators that eat jellyfish are being “fished down” – humans are being forced to consume ocean protein farther and farther down the food chain. We can see increasing indications from space - DMSP and Suomi NPP photographs show vast armadas of fishing boats using lights to attract squid to nets. Just a generation ago these fleets were fishing for higher value fish but those fish are mostly gone now. What will the catch be when the squid are gone? Will it have to be jellyfish if the trend continues unabated? (Whether jellyfish have sufficient protein per unit area is another question) 

But let’s address the underlying issue – human population expansion and the need for increasing amounts of protein from the earth and oceans. Unfortunately, this pattern is all too common in the ecosystems on earth: a population of an organism increases in size and exhausts critical resources in an area, and the population crashes. Humans are increasing their global reach and will soon reach limits of key resources – especially water and soil. We know this because we think we do a pretty good job of being able to measure water withdrawals and soil loss.

We are beginning to see more studies attempting to quantify what such key resource shortages will be and when. More studies quantifying loss is good. But we haven’t begun to see good studies in cognitive research that quantify how scientists can make their findings compelling and actionable to the population at large. The bunnies have been discussing some of the latest research. What do they think? How do we transfer these findings into action for the public?

If not, expect a run on hot sauce, at least as long as the jellyfish last


Hank Roberts said...

Links, after the first one, aren't connected yet.

How do we transfer these findings?

Probably the blue-green algae are going to deliver that message, if the resistant bacteria don't do it first.


I shall immediately entreat George Church to arrest our descent of the sandwhich food chain by sequencing the obvious synthetic biology solution to the problem of getting tuna off the hook:

The peanutbutterandjellyfish

Anonymous said...

And just in case we weren't already sitting up and paying attention:

Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, a few years ago the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and symbol of armed might, had to ignominously free from Brisbane when jellyfish also clogged its water pumps.

Say hello to our new gelatinous masters.


EliRabett said...

Fixed malformed links

thefordprefect said...

This all sounds a bit like the film Solyent Green (different to book by Harry Harrison). Pilage and polute the seas until nothing left. Then the remaining readily available food source is solyent green (mashed up old people) - recycling at its best!

Krill is already being farmed see:
Sustainability of Antarctic krill - British Antarctic Survey
How long before it is over-fished?

Of course there is nothing to worry about according to the cornwall alliance:
"1.We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history."

Remember to check who signed up to this!

Susan Anderson said...

I've noticed a rise in local jellyfish over the last couple of decades here in Boston. Always thought they thrived in warm water. Same with the rising tide: direct observation, very slow but steady since early 80s. Always peculiar (funny sad) when people tell us to ignore our lying senses.

The Old Man is back said...

Earlier this year in UK:
A couple years back I snorkelled in West Wales amid substantial numbers of small jellyfish. This year a friend's daughter got stung by one in Brighton.
Must check out leatherback numbers...


Visiting the medusa-infested Med, I found myself the only person swimming one June, having fortuitously packed a dive skin designed to deal with stingy Caribbean invertibrates.

Cheap vacation insurance!

carrot eater said...

Killer robots to the rescue.

Jim Prall said...

The fishing fleet lights seen from space bit had a link to the generic "all nighttime satellite imagery" site. Here is a permalink to the specific image showing a city in the sea off Argentina: