Authorities in Queensland, Australia, were forced to close beaches across the region over the weekend, after what local officials said was a jellyfish “epidemic.” More than 13,000 stings were recorded in Queensland alone last week, with more than 2,500 people seeking treatment over the weekend, according to rescue organizations.
According to authorities, the stings were caused by bluebottle colonies and were for the vast majority non life-threatening.
The reason for the extreme amount of human interactions with jellyfish? Researchers say climate change.
“Unlike other species, jellyfish are stimulated by just about any change to the ecosystem. So, it’s reasonable to say that the jellyfish might potentially be responding to the warmer-than-usual weather,” said marine life researcher Lisa Gershwin, who works with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia’s national science agency.
While the boom in total jelly fish numbers were likely caused by climate change, strong offshore winds pushed the colonies towards land making the chance of encounter easier.
Ms. Gershwin and other scientists say that the surge in stings is unlikely to be coincidental. “Jellyfish are demanding our attention right now and we should be giving it to them. Those stings are an indication that something is wrong with our oceans – and we’re silly that we’re not listening,” said Ms. Gershwin.
The increase in jellyfish is concerning Australian officials and researchers as the chance of coming in contact with humans increases and upsetting the balance of the eco-system vastly changes.
“[Jellyfish] are bad for the environment; they’re bad for humans. Having more jellyfish isn’t something good – but I’d say we’re on track to that,” said Ms. Gershwin.