Background: Over recent decades jellyfish have caused fish kill events and recurrent gill problems in marine-farmed salmonids. Common jellyfish (Aurelia spp.) are among the most cosmopolitan jellyfish species in the oceans, with populations increasing in many coastal areas. The negative interaction between jellyfish and fish in aquaculture remains a poorly studied area of science. Thus, a recent fish mortality event in Ireland, involving Aurelia aurita, spurred an investigation into the effects of this jellyfish on marine-farmed salmon.
Methodology/Principal Findings: To address the in vivo impact of the common jellyfish (A. aurita) on salmonids, we exposed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) smolts to macerated A. aurita for 10 hrs under experimental challenge. Gill tissues of control and experimental treatment groups were scored with a system that rated the damage between 0 and 21 using a range of primary and secondary parameters. Our results revealed that A. aurita rapidly and extensively damaged the gills of S. salar, with the pathogenesis of the disorder progressing even after the jellyfish were removed. After only 2 hrs of exposure, significant multi-focal damage to gill tissues was apparent. The nature and extent of the damage increased up to 48 hrs from the start of the challenge. Although the gills remained extensively damaged at 3 wks from the start of the challenge trial, shortening of the gill lamellae and organisation of the cells indicated an attempt to repair the damage suffered.
Conclusions: Our findings clearly demonstrate that A. aurita can cause severe gill problems in marine-farmed fish. With aquaculture predicted to expand worldwide and evidence suggesting that jellyfish populations are increasing in some areas, this threat to aquaculture is of rising concern as significant losses due to jellyfish could be expected to increase in the future.