Impacts of jellyfish on marine cage aquaculture: An overview of existing knowledge and the challenges to finfish health

Morag Clinton*, David E.K. Ferrier, Samuel A.M. Martin, Andrew S. Brierley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Gelatinous plankton present a challenge to marine fish aquaculture that remains to be addressed. Shifting plankton distributions, suggested by some to be a result of factors such as climate change and overfishing, appear to be exacerbated by anthropogenic factors linked directly to aquaculture. Fish health can be negatively influenced by exposure to the cnidarian hydrozoan and scyphozoan life stages commonly referred to as "jellyfish". Impact is particularly pronounced in gill tissue, where three key outcomes of exposure are described; direct traumatic damage, impaired function, and initiation of secondary disease. Cnidarian jellyfish demonstrated to negatively impact fish include Cyanea capillata, Aurelia aurita, and Pelagia noctiluca. Further coelenterates have also been associated with harm to fish, including sessile polyps of species such as Ectopleura larynx. An accurate picture of inshore planktic exposure densities within the coastal environments of aquaculture would aid in understanding cnidarian species of concern, and their impact upon fish health, particularly in gill disease. This information is however presently lacking. This review summarises the available literature regarding the impact of gelatinous plankton on finfish aquaculture, with a focus on cnidarian impact on fish health. Present strategies in monitoring and mitigation are presented, alongside identified critical knowledge gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1557-1573
Number of pages17
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
Early online date2 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank the pathology team at Cefas for all their hard work in preparation of illustrative tissue sections, as well as the kind provision of additional illustrative histology by Dr Hamish Rodger. We would also like to acknowledge the contribution to proof-reading and helpful discussion by Dr Louisa E. Wood, Dr Amanda A. Wiesenthal, and Dr Edmund J. Peeler, as
well as Caroline Daumich, who additionally assisted in conceptualization of illustrative figures. Finally, we would like to thank the reviewers for their insightful input that enhanced this manuscript. Elements of this review appeared previously in the PhD thesis “Investigating the role of harmful environmental organisms in multifactorial gill pathology in salmonids” of the lead author as part of a BBSRC Eastbio funded studentship (Clinton, 2020).


  • Atlantic salmon
  • cnidarian ecology
  • fish health
  • gill disease
  • mariculture
  • net pen
  • sea bass
  • zooplankton


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