Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not every species is harmful


The summer is here finally and people are getting braver when it comes to taking a dip in the sea. Over the past years, we have seen an increase in the number of mauve stingers (the little purple jellyfish) that make it close to the shore of our beaches and bays. As the name suggests, they leave quite a nasty sting.
Short of wearing a wetsuit, there is nothing much that can be done to avoid getting a nasty sting off one of them, and this leads many bathers to go on a spontaneous collective jellyfish cleanup.
Why they seem to be increasing is still open to debate, but it has become standard practice to simply kill them or let them melt in the sun. We can understand why, children and adults can get nasty stings and they can also leave quite nasty scars – but we must understand that not every species is harmful to humans.
A case in point was last week. This newspaper received a photograph of what turned out to be Sailors by the Wind – Vellela vellela. For what its worth, these are tiny jellyfish like creatures that have a small sail on their back which they use to navigate. As we have mentioned, they are harmless – but still many people have assumed the worst and proceeded to kill them.
The same happened last year when another not so familiar species (as it lives in open water and at more of a depth) is what is known locally as the qassata. Underwater, these beautiful creatures are bright yellow with vivid purple spots on them. They are quite harmless and you can actually handle them with minimal risk – their stings are benign to humans. But what happened? Hundreds and thousands of them were fished out of the water, looking like brown lumps of goo. And this is human nature. People look at these creatures and automatically assume the worst – we kill first and ask questions later with the usual “Oh my how ugly it is”. 
Meanwhile, a Spot the Jellyfish campaign has been launched and the aim of this is to increase the awareness of the different sub species of jellyfish which come close to our shores.
Whatever the cause of these increased jellyfish sightings, we should always remember one things – directly or indirectly, we are to blame. We have altered the sea as an ecosystem. We have fished the seas with impunity, eliminating species and drastically reducing the numbers of others. We have indirectly taken out the jellyfish’s natural predator – the sea turtle. They get caught in our nets and they eat plastic bags – killing themselves. Ask why? Because they mistake them for food. 
The temperature of the sea is also rising and we are partially responsible for that too. We simply cannot take the attitude of ‘kill it first, ask questions later’. We must understand that the cause of woe to every other species apart from human (western and advanced at that) is ourselves.  We kill for sport, we kill for food, we kill out of fear, we kill for trophies, we kill to make space, we even kill passively when contaminants are put into the sea – because at the end of the day we are the consumers. The human race is very much like the alien races we see in Hollywood movies – we hive, we strip, we deplete and we move on… except; we have no where to move on. We have one earth and she is sick.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed this post. You are too right about how people are being too ignorant, not just with regards to jellyfish, but other species. I especially liked your analogy at the end ;)



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