Last year it was oil. This year it is jellyfish.
Fishermen and shrimpers along the Alabama and Mississippi coasts say their efforts are being hampered by a blanket of jellyfish clogging the waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.
A year ago the same fishermen were dealing with the after-effects of the BP oil spill, the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Tropical weather might have eased the congestion a bit, but marine experts say jellyfish-clogged waters could put a damper on fishing and shrimping into the winter.
The bloom of thousands of moon jellyfish with their tell-tale clover pattern on their bodies has almost completely halted business in the past three weeks for fisherman and bait shop owner Harry Jemison.
“I catch bait, so they’re stopping me right now,” said Jemison, whose family has operated Jemison’s Bait and Tackle in the Heron Bay Cutoff area near Coden, Ala., for 67 years.
“It’s just like a thunderstorm or a hurricane,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s all part of living in God’s world down here.”
How long the jellyfish will stick around is hard to pin down, said William “Monty” Graham, who leads the University of Southern Mississippi’s marine science department.
Researchers discovered only recently that the umbrella-shaped, dinner plate-sized creatures tend to flourish in eight to 10-year cycles, he said. The current swarm is in about the third year of the latest cycle.