MARINA di GINOSA, Italy — As a small boat loaded with wet suits, lab equipment and empty coolers drifted into the warm turquoise sea, Stefano Piraino looked back at the sunbathers on the beach and explained why none of them set foot in the water.
“They know the jellyfish are here,” said Dr. Piraino, a professor of zoology at the University of Salento.
While tourists throughout Europe seek out Apulia, in Italy’s southeast, for its Baroque whitewashed cities and crystalline seas, swarms of jellyfish are also thronging to its waters.
Climate change is making the waters warmer for longer, allowing the creatures to breed gelatinous generation after gelatinous generation.
The jellyfish population explosion has blossomed for years, but got a special boost since 2015 with the broadening of the Suez Canal, which opened up an aquatic superhighway for invasive species to the Mediterranean.
The jellyfish invasion has now reached the point where there may be little to do but find a way to live with huge numbers of them, say scientists like Dr. Piraino.
Jellyfish are still treated, literally, like trash. The European Commission’s research and innovation branch recently considered jellyfish blooms, along with aquatic debris and pollution, a form of litter that posed “huge and increasing problems in the oceans, seas and coasts.”
The commission made funds available for researchers with innovative methods to clean the waters. Dr. Piraino and his team have answered the call.
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