Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Irukandji jellyfish threat in Queensland -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

TONY EASTLEY: In recent years, the dangerous tropical jellyfish, the Irukandji, has made its way south from its traditional north Queensland habitat, with sightings now confirmed as far south as Harvey Bay.

If the Irukandji became established off Queensland's south-east coast, it would be devastating for the region's tourism industry.

But it may not come to that. Queensland researchers at Griffith University have found the Irukandji could be stopped in its tracks because of other changes to the ocean.

Here's Nance Haxton.

NANCE HAXTON: It's one of the deadliest marine animals known to man, so venomous it inflicts excruciating pain, which sometimes leads to death.

And it's been on a relentless march southwards down the Queensland coast.

The progress of the Irukandji jellyfish is part of a worldwide trend, where tropical marine species are moving towards the world's poles as oceans warm.

Lead author and Griffith University PhD student, Shannon Klein, says if Irukandji were to start breeding off Queensland's south-east, it would be devastating for the local tourism industry.

SHANNON KLEIN: We found that while higher sea temperatures could provide an opportunity for the Irukandji to expand their range south, the increasing ocean acidification may inhibit the development of the juveniles.

NANCE HAXTON: And what does that mean?

SHANNON KLEIN: In the future, Irukandji jellyfish are unlikely to establish populations in south-east Queensland waters in the long term.

NANCE HAXTON: Marine biology Professor Mike Kingsford from James Cook University says the findings provide vital pieces to the puzzle of figuring out how much of a threat the species is to tourism and human health.

MIKE KINGSFORD: It is a great concern. Probably what caught everyone's attention was an Irukandji turning up in Sydney and Fraser Island in the last few years.

NANCE HAXTON: So does that mean that the stingers that have been found further south are an oddity or is it possibly the beginning of a trend?

MIKE KINGSFORD: There's a lack of definitive information on the tolerances of these different animals. So the types of experiments done by (inaudible) colleagues at Griffith and also the work we're doing up here, is really paving the way to understand what they can tolerate so we can make more sensible predictions.

NANCE HAXTON: Is there a chance that Irukandji and other such stingers could be becoming more robust as well?

MIKE KINGSFORD: Yeah well there is that. I mean they are tolerant of a whole range of conditions that could increase risk. So it's not just simply temperature, it's having available habitats so that the animal can actually expand its geographic range in a southerly direction.

There's a number of factors like rainfall, current strength, temperature and the PH of the ocean that will influence how far they get.

NANCE HAXTON: The findings from Griffith University's River Institute are published in the journal Global Change Biology.

TONY EASTLEY: Nance Haxton with that report.