MEPS 314:159-170 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps314159

Developing a simple, rapid method for identifying and monitoring jellyfish aggregations from the air

Jonathan D. R. Houghton1,*, Thomas K. Doyle2, John Davenport2, Graeme C. Hays1

1School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
2Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Sciences, Lee Maltings, Prospect Row, Cork, Ireland

ABSTRACT: Within the marine environment, aerial surveys have historically centred on apex predators, such as pinnipeds, cetaceans and sea birds. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the utility of this technique may also extend to subsurface species such as pre-spawning fish stocks and aggregations of jellyfish that occur close to the surface. In light of this, we tested the utility of aerial surveys to provide baseline data for 3 poorly understood scyphozoan jellyfish found throughout British and Irish waters: Rhizostoma octopus, Cyanea capillata and Chrysaora hysoscella. Our principal objectives were to develop a simple sampling protocol to identify and quantify surface aggregations, assess their consistency in space and time, and consider the overall applicability of this technique to the study of gelatinous zooplankton. This approach provided a general understanding of range and relative abundance for each target species, with greatest suitability to the study of R. octopus. For this species it was possible to identify and monitor extensive, temporally consistent and previously undocumented aggregations throughout the Irish Sea, an area spanning thousands of square kilometres. This finding has pronounced implications for ecologists and fisheries managers alike and, moreover, draws attention to the broad utility of aerial surveys for the study of gelatinous aggregations beyond the range of conventional ship-based techniques.


KEY WORDS: Aerial surveys · Gelatinous zooplankton · Jellyfish blooms · Scyphozoan · Rhizostoma octopus · Irish Sea


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