In early October, one of the largest nuclear reactors in the world was forced to shut down after a swarm of jellyfish flooded and clogged its water cooling pipes. The bloom of jellyfish that devastated Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear plant is symptomatic of a global problem. Research out of the University of British Columbia shows a sixty-two percent increase in jellyfish blooms since 1950. Proliferation of the species has been crippling fishing and tourism all over the world and blooms are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration. Gwynn Guilford reported on the proliferation, which appears in large part to be related to the impact of humans on the oceans; her article appeared in Quartz.
Thirty years ago, a North American ship dumped ballast water containing comb jellyfish into the black sea and triggered a catastrophic decline in marine life. A decade later, discharged ballast containing a strain of cholera contaminated shellfish of the coast of Peru, killing more than 12,000 Latin Americans. These cases of biological stowaways are being targeted by the United Nations for regulation – but the treaty that would prevent future catastrophes has yet to be ratified. Fred Pearce is the environment consultant for New Scientist discusses the stowaway problem and potential solutions with us.