Mnemiopsis leidyi, an invasive species causing concern to Catalan fishing sector. (Photo: YouTube/DTU Aqua)
'Population explosion' of invasive species raise concern
Wednesday, September 07, 2011, 01:00 (GMT + 9)
Mussel producers and fishermen from the bay of Alfacs, in Cataluñiia, are concerned about an invasive species that is competing for food with molluscs and fish of commercial interest in the area.
The plague, known scientifically as Mnemiopsis leidyi, looks like a jellyfish but is not stinging. It was detected two years ago in the area and at present is well established in the Bay of Montsià.
The fisheries sector calls it the 'bulb' due to its shape and luminescence and according to biologists from Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in these waters a "high population explosion" has been recorded.
Experts say the species has already completed its life cycle in waters of Alfacs, but what might be the effects on aquaculture and fishing has not been found out yet.
In the European summer of 2009, CSIC biologists detected this eight-centimetre long gelatinous organism on the Catalan coast.
"Of all the starting zones, it is in the Bay of Alfacs where it can be said that it has settled in great numbers, if we measure the basic guidelines, in other words, that this organism reproduces and completes its life cycle," said researcher Veronica Fuentes, according to El Periódico de Catalunya.
While in the winter months it is common that these organisms disappear, in the Bay of Alfacs "a very particular event is taking place: an explosion of larvae," warned the researcher.
This organism consumes zooplankton, other species of ctenophores, fish eggs and larvae.
"They eat the same as mussels do, for example, and there are studies on other areas that show that one of the main food of Mnemiopsis leidyi are mussel larvae, but we cannot risk saying anything," said Fuentes.
Josep Ramon Castells, president of the Federation of Producers of molluscs in Ebro Delta (Fepromodel) said they do not know the impact this species may have on mussel culture and they worry that they can compete for the same food.
"However, at present, nobody has given us any explanation, so we're on the lookout," he said.
By Analia Murias