August 18, 2007

Invasive Jellyfish Move into U.S. Waters

Invasive Australian jellyfish could pose a threat to the U.S. commercial fishing and shrimping industry.

The exotic jellyfish, Phyllorhiza punctata, were first spotted in the Gulf of Mexico in 2000. They've moved east since then and are now being reported in waters from southwestern Louisiana to Morehead City, N.C.

Researchers said the jellyfish present little to no danger to humans in terms of their sting, but they could hurt fishermen and shrimpers by fouling trawling nets and eating eggs and larvae of important fishery species.

Phyllorhiza are prolific feeders; they can compete with commercially important fish for food, and they also eat the larvae of these fish. In their native waters, they tend to be fist-sized; here in the Gulf, they can be a big as dinner plates, Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientist Monty Graham said Friday in a release.

Graham said boaters and beach-goers should report sightings of the jellyfish to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab's jellyfish Web site, Dockwatch, at