Jellyfish from China in Haliburton lakes
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | September 22, 2016
Video taken by Thomas Giguere
Thomas Giguere has embraced Haliburton County’s lakes since he was a toddler.
His love of the water and fascination with the life in it led him to enrolling in the marine and freshwater biology program at the University of Guelph.
So when the 21-year-old heard there were jellyfish in the Highlands, it piqued his interest.
“Three or four years ago I had heard about the jellyfish in the lakes here,” said Giguere, explaining that someone showed him a jellyfish inside a styrofoam cup when he worked at Haliburton RPM.
Last August, he discovered this freshwater jellyfish while on a pontoon boat ride with his family on Haliburton’s Head Lake.
“Just as we were leaving I looked in the water ... and I saw something floating around that was really small but white,” he recalled, adding it was the size of a penny.
Giguere scooped it up in a cup and realized it was in fact a freshwater jellyfish. He put on his goggles and jumped in the lake, where he swam around dozens of them.
About a month ago he saw hundreds, if not thousands, of them in Lake Kashagawigamog.
“I know of people who have seen them in Head Lake and a lot of other lakes around here,” he said.
He did some research on the Internet and came to the conclusion these were Craspedacusta sowerbyi, a jellyfish-like creature that is native to China. He also learned they were most likely transported to the area by way of ornamental aquatic plants, such as water lilies.
Erin MacDonald, management biologist with the Bancroft district of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, confirmed his findings.
“They are native to China but are now common in temperate climates across the globe,” said MacDonald.
They were first discovered in the Great Lakes as far back as the 1930s and inland lakes in Ontario in the ‘80s.
“They are often present in lakes in their larval forms but are rarely detected until the right conditions exist (water temperatures of at least 25 degree Celsius) and colonies of adults develop. In Ontario, this occurs sporadically and it could be years between blooms,” she said.
MacDonald has received numerous reports of the species over the years, including several from Lake Kashagawigamog. Samples have also been submitted to her.
The adults feed on zooplankton and other small aquatic invertebrates. Their impact is not fully known at this time due to a lack of research.
“It’s thought that during the years of adult blooms, they may impact zooplankton populations, which could affect other species that depend on the same food source.”
Although they aren’t dangerous to humans, their sting can paralyze small prey, said MacDonald.
This summer, Giguere purchased an underwater camera and captured video of himself swimming with the jellyfish. He decided to launch a YouTube channel with footage of his underwater adventures.
He wants it to serve as an educational tool and encourage others to respect underwater life.
“It’s just an unseen thing; people don’t tend to look at it a lot. I want to shine a light on it to show how important it is.”
Now in his fifth year of university, Giguere will graduate with his bachelor’s degree next April. He then plans to get his master’s degree, preferably in hydrothermal vent research.
Giguere’s dream job is to be a deep sea researcher.
For more information about freshwater jellyfish, visit freshwaterjellyfish.org. Sightings can be reported online.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.