Maltese waters being monitored for MED-JellyRisk Project

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Maltese waters being monitored for MED-JellyRisk ProjectMaltese waters are being scientifically monitored by aerial and marine surveys conducted by conservation biologist, Dr Adriana Vella, from the Department of Biology, University of Malta.

This survey work will contribute data to the Med-JellyRisk project, coordinated by As.Prof. Stefano Piriano, CoNISMa and University of Salento, Italy. Med-JellyRisk focuses on the integrated monitoring of jellyfish outbreaks under anthropogenic and climatic impacts in the Mediterranean sea by considering trophic and socio-economic risks.

This Strategic Project (2012-2015) is supported by the European Commission ENPI Priority 1 – Topic 3 – Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

The surveys currently undertaken by Dr Vella in Maltese waters aid the collection of biological data useful to modelling the conditions that affect jellyfish blooming in the Mediterranean.

Ongoing surveys this month have shown few to no jellyfish blooms in Maltese waters which is a relief to the many swimming and aquaculture sites around the Maltese Islands and allow scientists to gather information on conditions present when jellyfish are not proliferating into blooms.

Dr. Vella is also coordinating coastal monitoring from land and snorkelling surveys. The jellyfish blooms observed earlier in the year seem to have vanished from local waters in recent months.

The University of Malta entities taking part in the Med-JellyRisk project include the Biology Department, led by Dr Vella, which is taking care of the biological aspects of this partnership, and the IOI-MOC, led by Dr Deidun, which is taking care of the physical oceanographic aspects.

Both these entities are also taking part in various activities this summer including: the preparation of local training in jellyfish aspects, social-economic surveys and local awareness on the role played by jellyfish in our sea. Project partner scientists also include: Dr. Nejib Daly and Dr. Ons Daly Yahia from Tunisia and Dr Veronica Fuentes from Spain.

This MED-JELLYRISK Consortium will establish a network of experts to develop and apply shared protocols to quantify the environmental and health risks of jellyfish proliferations, informing the development of management guidelines and forthcoming adaptive strategies, policies and regulations, for cooperative Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICMZ) in the Mediterranean Sea.

The strategic objective is the promotion of joint planning methodologies. In particular, the project will promote the implementation of risk assessment, prevention and mitigation of negative impacts resulting from jellyfish proliferations

For a conservation biologist, interested in understanding how marine biodiversity may change with anthropogenic activities and climatic variations, Dr Vella believes that considering also the jellyfish species’ role in our changing marine life is important, if we wish to be better equipped with the knowledge to plan ways to sustain our various marine activities from fishing to swimming and effectively conserve our marine biodiversity.

Summers without jellyfish is comforting for the many locals and tourists longing to enjoy our beautiful seas and ongoing biological monitoring work should increase our understanding of how best to predict and manage blooming episodes at different times of the year.

This project will also distinguish between jellyfish species, to find out which species have the greatest socio-economic and biological impacts. At the same time local awareness on how to deal with stings of different types of jellyfish is useful to allow swimmers to be prepared with a suitable cure when preventive measures do not work.

Dr Vella’s marine biodiversity research has already been contributing, as National Contact person, to another on-going Mediterranean-wide jellyfish research programme being coordinated by CIESM in Monaco.

Various Mediterranean National Contact persons will meet at the next CIESM congress in November to discuss future efforts.

File Photo by Alain Salvary – Jellyfish Xlendi 2013.

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