Mauve Stingers

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 19th March 2008.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

(1) pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2281W on mauve stingers, to which types of jellyfish blooms the UK is vulnerable; and if he will make a statement;

(2) pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2281W, on mauve stingers, what assessment he has made of whether climate change has made the UK more vulnerable to mauve stingers; and if he will make a statement;

(3) pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2281W, on mauve stingers, whether he has commissioned research into mauve stingers; and if he will make a statement;

(4) pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2281W, on mauve stingers, on which occasions mauve stingers have affected the UK aquaculture sector; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs) and Minister for the South East), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are six species of jellyfish that occur in UK coastal waters. They are:

(a) Mauve stinger Pelagia noctiluca

(b) Compass jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella

(c) Lion's mane jellyfish Cyanea capillata

(d) Blue jellyfish Cyanea lamarckii

(e) Moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita

(f) Barrel jellyfish Rhizostoma octopus

Mauve stingers are oceanic and occur in coastal waters only occasionally. Little is known about the temporal and spatial patterns of occurrence for mauve stingers. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) have awarded a short-term (6-month) urgency award to Swansea university to assess the overall extent of mauve stinger occurrence in the Irish sea and adjacent waters during the winter of 2007-08.

The last two decades have seen increasing water temperatures around the UK and as mauve stingers have a predominantly southern distribution (e.g. being highly abundant in the Mediterranean) we might thus expect increasing bloom formation around the UK coast.

The problems with fish damage and mortalities due to influx of jellyfish swarms are well known to the finfish aquaculture industry, and to their insurers. In the UK and Ireland, Mauve stingers and other oceanic jellyfish such as Solmaris corona, along with some common coastal species such as the moon jellyfish Aurelia, are known to have caused significant mortalities of farmed fish. The problem is a global one for marine fish farmers. Although the industry has developed some ways to manage and mitigate the risks and effects of toxic plankton, these are not always effective with large swarms of jellyfish that can appear suddenly on one tide and disappear on the next, or may persist for days or weeks.

There is no systematic reporting of jelly fish events and the reports that Fisheries Research Services (FRS) has are of an ad-hoc nature. A table summarising jellyfish incidents follows.

Number of affected sites Number of fish killed Biomass lost (Tonnes)
8 244,000 404
3 4,300 unknown
43 2,275,100 5,754
26 1,857,800 2,552
10 205,750 317.7
2 770 2.76
4 117,838 317
4 48,827 110.2
3 280,000 472
Source:

FRS

It is important to note that as the aquaculture industry has developed since the mid nineteen eighties they increasingly use commercial fish vets and their own labs to investigate such incidents which are not notifiable under statute.

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