Biomass of Scyphozoan Jellyfish, and Its Spatial Association with 0-Group Fish in the Barents Sea

Abstract

An 0-group fish survey is conducted annually in the Barents Sea in order to estimate fish population abundance. Data on jellyfish by-catch have been recorded since 1980, although this dataset has never been analysed. In recent years, however, the ecological importance of jellyfish medusae has become widely recognized. In this paper the biomass of jellyfish (medusae) in 0-60 m depths is calculated for the period 1980-2010. During this period the climate changed from cold to warm, and changes in zooplankton and fish distribution and abundance were observed. This paper discusses the less well known ecosystem component; jellyfish medusae within the Phylum Cnidaria, and their spatial and temporal variation. The long term average was ca. 9×10⁸ kg, with some years showing biomasses in excess of 5×10⁹ kg. The biomasses were low during 1980s, increased during 1990s, and were highest in early 2000s with a subsequent decline. The bulk of the jellyfish were observed in the central parts of the Barents Sea, which is a core area for most 0-group fishes. Jellyfish were associated with haddock in the western area, with haddock and herring in the central and coastal area, and with capelin in the northern area of the Barents Sea. The jellyfish were present in the temperature interval 1°C<T<10°C, with peak densities at ca. 5.5°C, and the greatest proportion of the jellyfish occurring between 4.0-7.0°C. It seems that the ongoing warming trend may be favourable for Barents Sea jellyfish medusae; however their biomass has showed a recent moderate decline during years with record high temperatures in the Barents Sea. Jellyfish are undoubtedly an important component of the Barents Sea ecosystem, and the data presented here represent the best summary of jellyfish biomass and distribution yet published for the region.

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