Jellyfish wars: Can tech keep your guests safe!

How to prevent the owner falling victim of Goomageddon

Whenever we think about jellyfish, we tend to concentrate on one of two things; their potentially lethal sting or the fact that their transparent bodies make for spectacular displays both on the ocean floor and in any aquarium. Scientists, however, think of something quite different.

For the last few years, huge jellyfish blooms have been making surprise appearances in the world’s oceans. These blooms have been causing a variety of problems such as the unintentional sabotage of the USS Ronald Reagan. The seemingly impenetrable nuclear-powered supercarrier sucked in too many jellyfish in its coolant systems which partially disabled it almost in an instant.

This problem, of course, is not unique to supercarriers. One of the main issues is that these jellyfish blooms are not very well-understood, which makes them even more dangerous. What we do know is that effects attributed to mankind, such as overfishing and warming waters, are largely affecting the swarms.

In addition to that, the prevention of jellyfish is a new and delicate science. Several techniques have been employed in the past to prevent widespread jellyfish manifestations, with varying results. Anti-jellyfish nets, for instance, have been placed in many a beach throughout the world where jellyfish blooms are a known problem. Stinger suits are also incredibly popular in countries like Australia where stings from jellyfish and other marine life are a true hazard, particularly in specific periods of the year.

For Superyacht owners, a viable solution might be the inflatable sea pool. The sea pool is built to have a mesh netting in the water to prevent all species of Jellyfish from entering the swimming area.

Other solutions typically employed to prevent infestations do not tend to work on jellyfish, largely due to their physical structure. Owners and guests of such watercraft will have to take extra care when dealing with jellyfish, lest they wish to risk getting stung. Those who are willing to invest even more into the destruction of these aquatic creatures, however, do have some additional options.

Robotic killers

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) came up with an ingenious way of literally shredding jellyfish. Their Jellyfish Elimination Robot Swarm, aka JEROS, is exactly what its name suggests. A swarm of robots floats at the surface of the water, detecting jellyfish through a combination of visual imagery and a GPS system. Whenever it detects a bloom of them, it traps them in a net and redirects them to an early death sentence via propeller.

As it stands right now, the JEROS is capable of eliminating small species of jellyfish at a considerable 25 shreds per minute. Its design, however, limits it to specific species which lie on the smaller end of the weight and size scale. With that said, KAIST has been in talks with various international organisations which might adopt and adapt the JEROS to suit their own special needs.

The issue here is that while the JEROS can indeed destroy incoming jellyfish, it cannot remove the problem. Though some fish and crustaceans do eat jellyfish, they cannot keep up with such numbers, particularly due to the overfishing issues stated above. Letting drop into the ocean floor to rot is far from an ideal solution. After all, shredding them does not remove their mass or the fact that they will continue to pose a problem for various systems. A new version of the JEROS, that actively traps jellyfish instead of destroying them, has also been designed but with the added caveat of not knowing what to do with them afterwards.

Treating the symptoms

As mentioned before, jellyfish are not very well-understood by modern science. We certainly know a lot about their evolution, their DNA, and their transformation stages and yet we know very little about their migration patterns, the exact causes of their blooms, or their arrival times. Some scientists have suggested that we need to better understand jellyfish basics and their patterns before we can actually do anything to combat their rapid rise. For instance, identifying large blooms of jellyfish so that machines like the JEROS can be deployed in a timely and efficient manner.

Others suggest that Occam’s razor once again rings true; the best way to combat jellyfish rises is to stop overfishing and start treating our oceans right. While simple in theory, it seems like mankind has no intentions of doing anything to that effect. Up until we actively change our habits, we will simply be treating the symptoms instead of curing the disease. Thus far, we have seen many technologies which can affect jellyfish, including a lotion that prevents their sting and a specific hormone that can actually make them reproduce faster so that they can be harvested appropriately.

Is there one method to end them all?

To date, there has been no tried-and-proven method of dealing with jellyfish on a large scale. Those who would worry the most, such as the owners of Superyachts who wish to protect their guests and themselves, will have to rely on methods such as the aforementioned stinger suits, the inflatable pool, and even the sunscreen that prevents stings.

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