Box jellyfish bloom in yacht marinas
The Spot the Jellyfish campaign has received numerous reports over the past few days of sightings of the box jellyfish species – Carybdea marsupialis – all hailing from two yacht marina locations, the Ta Xbiex/Msida and Birgu ones. In all cases, the box jellyfish individuals were reported as occurring in groups of less than five.
Marine biologist Alan Deidun, coordinator of the campaign, postulated that the site-fidelity of the species, which seems to have a predilection for yacht marina environments, might stem from the jellyfish species' preference of concrete walls (which it uses during some of the stages of its reproduction) or of nutrient-rich (polluted waters), or it might be that its larval stages are being transported by recreational vessels.
The species has a roughly conical umbrella, with four long tentacles emerging from each corner of the umbrella and having roughly four to five times the length of the umbrella, which is normally only 3cm long. The species is highly transparent and quite difficult to spot in water, normally occurring at great depths (500 to 1,000 metres) but which can occasionally be nudged to the surface by currents. Although not lethal as its Pacific Ocean counterpart the sea wasp (Chironex fleckeri), which is listed as one of the most venomous animal species on earth, the Mediterranean box jellyfish species can still inflict painful stings.
The Spot the Jellyfish initiative website (www.ioikids.net/jellyfish) now gives users the possibility to search the total number of jellyfish sightings for each bay on an annual basis, from 2010 to 2012. From such statistics, it transpires that a total of 384, 118 and 205 reports were submitted by the public to the initiative’s database in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. Over 1,000 reports have been submitted by the public to the campaign since May 2010.
The initiative is coordinated by Dr Deidun, Prof. Aldo Drago and the staff of IOI-MOC.
The campaign is an IOI-Kids Programme initiative, which follows a citizen science approach and relies on the collaboration of the general public, mariners, divers, and especially the younger generations through their teachers and parents, by recruiting their assistance in recording the presence and location of different jellyfish through the use of a dedicated reporting leaflet. The leaflet is being widely distributed and can be directly downloaded at www.ioikids.net/jellyfish, replete with snippets and anecdotes about different jellyfish species. Large posters have also been projected on boards along major bays on both islands.
Reporting is done by simply matching the sighted jellyfish with a simple visual identification guide, giving the date and time of the sighting, and indicating the number of jellies seen. Sightings can be also reported online or submitted via SMS on 79222278 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strange jellyfish not included on the leaflet should be caught and kept in a bucketful of seawater prior to contacting IOI-MOC staff for retrieval to attempt a definite identification of the species. If this is not possible, photos of the same individuals should be taken. The Spot the Jellyfish campaign launched in May 2010 has received international recognition for its citizen science value – for instance, global citizen science fora, such as the "Science for Citizens" blog (http://www.scienceforcitizens.net/blog/2010/08/spot-the-jellyfish-here-o...) and the Science 2.0 network (http://www.science20.com/citizen_science_journal/jellyfish_reporting_cit...).