Missing jellyfish unusual, says marine scientist

A scientist who has been looking for jellyfish off the coast of Nova Scotia says the lack of the seasonal visitors is very unusual.

Slow water currents, resulting from warmer weather, may be to blame

A rare occurrence this summer, two young girls get a close look at a jellyfish on a P.E.I. beach. (CBC)

A scientist who has been looking for jellyfish off the coast of Nova Scotia says the lack of the seasonal visitors is very unusual.  

Anna Metaxas, a marine scientist at Dalhousie University, says beachgoers are not the only ones who have noticed the missing jellyfish.  

"We have been trying to find jellies since May and we have seen very few and this is along the coast from Halifax harbour, inside St. Margarets Bay, we have seen no jellies," said Metaxas.  

"It's the same in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, very few jellies this year."  

Metaxas studies plankton, small creatures that float with the currents, which are an important part of the marine food chain and a major source of oxygen for the planet.  

She wanted to find jellyfish as part of her research, "because the jellies eat this plankton and we wanted to collect some of those jellies to run experiments in the lab so that we can see how much they eat."  

Metaxas says the exceptionally warm water temperatures experienced this summer is resulting in slower ocean currents, currents that the jellyfish ride in on.  

"I think that's why we haven't had a lot of jellies," said Metaxas.  

Gerhard Pohle, with the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, N.B., says that jellyfish have already come and gone in New Brunswick.

"It looks like we may have some jellyfish maybe earlier in the year, so that people who hit the water at this time will be somewhat surprised at the lack of them."

On P.E.I. this year, the jellyfish were reported about a month earlier than expected.

The change seen in jellyfish raises some interesting scientific questions — for instance what, if any, long term effects will there be if this warming trend continues?

Jellyfish aren't the only creatures feeling the heat in Atlantic Canada.  

Most recently, tropical fish species have been becoming more common off the coast of Nova Scotia.  

On P.E.I. the hot weather has caused a boom in butterfly populations this summer.  

Warmer temperatures have also been causing a headache for lobster fishermen who have seen an increase in lobster mortality.