Ecological and Economic Consequences of Ignoring Jellyfish: A Plea for Increased Monitoring of Ecosystems

erik-sorenson

Photo credit: Erik Sorenson/Flickr

By Richard D. Brodeur, Jason S. Link, B. E. Smith, M. D. Ford, D. R. Kobayashi, and T. T. Jones

Gelatinous zooplankton can dominate the dynamics of marine ecosystems; can have major ecological, social, and economic impacts; are often indicative of broader ecosystem perturbations; and are increasingly being harvested by humans. Yet fisheries scientists typically do not monitor these taxa on a regular basis, despite the existence of clear rationales and even mandated authorizations to do so. Notably, the costs of monitoring jellyfish during regular fisheries research cruises would be a small increase over the cost of running a large fishery survey and a small fraction of the costs caused by impacts from these taxa. As ecosystems experience increasing pressures from climate change and fisheries, we recommend considering routine monitoring before some future jellyfish-associated crisis arises.

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