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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

WESTPAC scientists step up efforts to control jellyfish blooms

While beautiful, Jellyfish pose a severe threat to people and maritime operations. The last couple of years have seen an increasing flurry of attention to jellyfish blooms in the region. They clogged up the cooling system of power plant, shutting it down. They damaged fisheries and aquaculture by ripping fishing nets and preying on small fishes. Jellyfish stings were also increasingly reported at several coastal tourism attractions in the region, wreaking havoc on tourism industry.

Are the increasing jellyfish blooms attributable to climate change? or because of escalating human activities, such as fish farms and power plants that are multiplying along the coasts? A number of bewildering questions remain. How to treat jellyfish stings, and countries in the region, particularly these in tropical areas, have their practical first aid experience for sharing with others?

On 7-9 August 2019, the Sub-Commission gathered more than twenty researchers and emergency physicians from the region gathered in the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS) of the Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, to look into the latest study on jellyfish population dynamics, life history, and jellyfish blooming mechanisms.

The event is the 2nd Workshop that the Sub-Commission aims to deepen the knowledge on harmful jellyfish in the region. “We initially focus on jellyfish polyps, as jellyfish can clone themselves through its ability of regeneration, and thus studying the early larval stages is critical to understanding jellyfish blooms ”, Aileen Tan Shau Hwai, CEMACS Director and the WESTPAC Principal Investigator (PI) for Harmful Jellyfish Programme highlighted at the opening of the workshop.

During three days of the workshop, under the supervision of Hiroshi Miyake, a professor from Kitasato University Japan, participants are engaged in hands-on jellyfish sampling method to know the population dynamics at the north coast of Penang Island. The sample from the fieldwork then is used to identify the polyps of jellyfish. While exchanging research on jellyfish occurrence and relevant monitoring efforts in the region over the last two years, participants stressed the urgency to translate information and scientific findings into practical medical procedures to handle emergency treatment such as first aid treatment for jellyfish stings and jellyfish envenomations.

The regional workshop concluded with a strong commitment to advancing studies on harmful jellyfish. It was agreed that a general field guide book on jellyfish sampling protocol and practical book be developed for the treatment on jellyfish stings. Participants recognized that jellyfish taxonomy and forecasting technique for jellyfish bloom could serve as another focus for future jellyfish programme.