Significance to humans

Scyphozoan jellyfish have direct and indirect effects on humans, many of which are negative. Swimmers fear them for their painful stings. All jellyfish sting, but the stings of small specimens and those with short tentacles often are not painful to humans. The genera Chrysaora and Cyanea are known for painful stings. Scyphozoan stings are painful but not deadly. More painful and dangerous stingers are in the class Cubozoa (box jellyfish) and the class Hydrozoa (specifically, the Portuguese man of war, Physalia physalis).

Fish populations and commercial fisheries may be affected detrimentally by jellyfish. Jellyfish may occur in great abundance, and, if they are caught in fishing nets, their great weight may cause the nets to rip or the fish catch to be damaged. Jellyfish eat the pelagic eggs and larvae of fish as well as the small zooplankton prey of fish larvae and zooplanktivorous fish species. Therefore, jellyfish both eat fish and compete with them for food. Jellyfish also appear to be intermediate hosts for some parasites of fish. Jellyfish have been a nuisance to fish farms, where they break up on the fish impoundments and sting and kill the fish, and to power plants, where they may clog the cooling water intake screens, sometimes causing the plants to suspend operations. On the positive side for fish and fisheries, the juveniles of at least 80 species of fish, many of which are commercially important, associate with large jellyfish. While the relative advantages of such associations are not known, they are thought to benefit the fish partners most.

Jellyfish also have a place of value in human enterprise. In Japan and China jellyfish are an important food and have been exploited for more than 1,700 years. In China they are considered a culinary delicacy and are thought to have medicinal value. A multimillion-dollar commercial fishery exists for at least 10 species of rhizostome medusae throughout Southeast Asia, and a fishery for Stomolophus meleagris has been started in the Gulf of Mexico. The swimming bell of the jellyfish is processed in a mixture of salt and alum and packaged for distribution. The semidried jellyfish is rehydrated, desalted, blanched, and served in a variety of dishes. The prepared jellyfish has a special crunchy texture.

Owing to their great beauty and the relaxing effect of their swimming pulsations, jellyfish have been a great success as specimens in public aquariums and even as household pets. Over the past decade, considerable advances have been made in jellyfish husbandry, and several species are on display at aquariums worldwide. In Japan jellyfish are kept as pets in special aquariums.

Cannonball Jellyfish

1. Sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha), 2. Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata), 3. Cannonball jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris), 4. Moon jelly (Aurelia aurita). (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey)

Linuche Unguiculata

1. Nightlight jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca); 2. Thimble jelly (Linuche unguiculata); 3. Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus auricula)-, 4. Crown jellyfish (Peri-phylla periphylla); 5. Golden jellyfish (Mastigias papua); 6. Upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea xamachana). (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey)

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