Jellyfish attack wipes out only salmon farm in Northern Ireland

Spectacular jellyfish attack ruined the only salmon farm in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. said billions of jellyfish - in a dense pack 10 square miles (25 square kilometers) wide and 35 feet (10 meters) deep - overwhelmed the fish in two net pens about a mile (1.5 kilometers) off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast, last week.

Managing director John Russell said the company's dozen workers tried to rescue the salmon, but their three boats struggled for hours to push their way through the mass of jellyfish. All the fish were dead or dying from stings and stress by the time the boats reached the pens, he said.

Russell - who previously worked at Scottish salmon farms and took the Northern Ireland job just three days before the attack - said he had never seen anything like it in 30 years in the business.

"It was unprecedented, absolutely amazing. The sea was red with these jellyfish and there was nothing we could do about it, absolutely nothing," he said.

The species of jellyfish responsible, Pelagia nocticula - popularly known as the mauve stinger - is noted for its purplish nighttime glow and its propensity for terrorizing bathers in the warmer Mediterranean Sea. Until the past decade the mauve stinger has rarely been spotted so far north in British or Irish waters, and scientists cite this as further evidence of global warming.

Russell said the company - which bills its salmon as organic and exports to France, Belgium, Germany and the United States - faces likely closure unless it receives emergency aid from the British government. "It's a disaster," he said.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova