If you have spent any time this summer swimming at Cape Charles Beach, you may have noticed that there have been little or no sightings of jellyfish (bay nettles). Scientists say they may be more scarce this year than ever before.
Denise Breitburg, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), says multiple factors resulting from this summer’s rain are probably contributing to the scarcity of nettles. Fresh water runoff has lowered salinity below levels that nettles can tolerate–it also hinders their ability to reproduce. Over several decades, rising water temperatures have reached levels that are also harmful to jellyfish.
Environmentalists worry that their absence could throw the ecosystem out of balance.While it may sound like a crisis, the head of the jellyfish program at Horn Point, Dr. Raleigh Hood, thinks it may be just a cycle.
“We don’t have any evidence to suggest that there’s links between year to year in terms of population size. as far as we know, the population we have this year and how big it will be next year are largely independent of each other,” Hood said.