Throughout history there have been stories of massive sea creatures attacking unsuspecting vessels and sending their crews to a watery grave. And it seems the trend continues even today. At least that’s what a Japanese fishing trawler captain must be thinking as he laments the loss of his vessel due to a swarm of massive jellyfish.
The Diasan Shinsho-maru, once the proud fishing vessel of three fisherman who regularly took trips out to the seas off Chiba to net the shallow waters finally met its demise as suddenly something took hold of the net. As the captain looked over the side he was shocked to see the pulley attached to the netting straining and whining under an immense pressure. Out of the water it looked like nothing more than a large clump of slime slowly climbing up the rope netting. But the experienced fishermen onboard recognized the texture as seeming like a hundred jellyfish of massive sizes. But how could such a simple creature become so massive? As the creatures clung on, the vessel suddenly began swinging from side to side before flipping over and capsizing sending the three fishermen overboard into the ocean.
In the chilly waters every second counts, so another fishing vessel quickly moved to rescue them despite knowing more of the massive creatures could be in the waters. The sting of many jellyfish contains a neurotoxin that stings with agonizing intensity and can even kill. As the crew was pulled aboard, a headcount revealed no one had been killed, and there were no serious injuries. It was shortly after the headcount that the crews to both vessels would finally get a chance to look over at the capsized vessel and watch the tremendous bizarre mass running across it and pulling it down with its immense bulk. Shortly thereafter the net came loose and the jellyfish all quickly darted out into the ocean creating a miasma of energy that quickly spread like a membrane beneath the vessel. Where had they all come from?
Nomura’s jellyfish, which can grow up to two meters in diameter has been invading the Chiba sea thanks to warm sea temperatures and a lack of predators such as sea turtles and some fish due to poaching. They have been quite a nuisance to fishermen in the past stinging those unlucky enough to touch them, contaminating fish with their neurotoxins, and even damaging equipment. Fishermen have had to pay for more than 15,500 repairs annually due to jellyfish in recent years.
Perhaps it isn’t as dramatic as the massive squids of legend swallowing vessels whole, or a prawn with the ability to start small fires in its tail fins, but it’s most certainly a problem in the seas off the coast of Japan. And just how the jellyfish, a creature with no central nervous structure that is simply a collection of one celled organisms, is masterminding such an attack on fishing vessels (whether by accident or intent) is certainly unexplainable. How long before other creatures, disrupted by shifting ecosystems find their way into a position of power by numbers?