Researchers aren’t sure why jellyfish are blooming in the Philippines

Thousands of bright pink jellyfish have swarmed the archipelago of Palawan in the Philippines. 

On March 28, Sheldon Rey Boco, a doctoral student who studies marine biology at Griffith University, shared a video of the jellyfish on Twitter, where it has since received over 400,000 views. 

It has also led to questions. 

“Is this because of climate change?” one user asked in response to the post. “There was also a surge of dead jellyfishes along the coast of ras al Khaimah in UAE.” 

But Boco, who also co-founded the Philippine Jellyfish Stings Project, quickly dispelled such explanations as to why the bloom is occurring around Palawan.

“There is a current and sensationalized misconception in the media, and even in the scientific literature, that climate change and other human stressors are causing the increase of the size and frequency of jellyfish blooms,” Boco told science blog IFL Science

The researcher, who was notified of the bloom by the Philippine Department of Environment, told Filipino outlet ABS-CBN News that it was likely that the jellyfish first appeared in February but were pushed to Palawan in March due to wind, current and tidal conditions (for context, most jellyfish blooms usually occur seasonally). 

Boco added that tourism activities, like boating and fishing, could have also possibly altered the “water circulation and distribution of zooplankton food for the jellyfish, thereby potentially changing the distribution of jellyfish medusae.”

Still, the researcher maintained there was not enough field data to definitively know the cause behind the bloom. 

“The absence of field data and formal scientific reports on the behavior and distribution of the jellyfish species and potential effects of human presence on the coastal area makes it difficult to even speculate about whether the presence of tourists and fishers on the area affect the jellyfish,” he told ABS-CBN.

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