MIAMI
12/08/2011 12:31 pm ET | Updated Dec 08, 2011

Moon Jellyfish Kill Tons of Goliath Groupers At St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant

Jellyfish must be passionate critics of nuclear energy. This past summer, they sacrificed their own lives to clog up nuclear power plants from as close as St. Lucie to as far away as U.K., Israel, and Japan. The sea creatures are unfortunate casualties of power plants that suck in water and marine life as opposed to South Florida's Turkey Point, which reuses and recirculates water.

In August, a massive influx of moon jellyfish clogged up the St. Lucie nuclear power plant, shutting down operations for a whole two days. The swarm of transparent creatures proved no match for the plant, which was constructed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

According to the Palm Beach Post, it wasn't just nuclear energy that was killed that August day. When the jellyfish got clogged in the system, their poisonous tentacles broke off as they traveled through the plant's pipes. Water in the intake canal became thick with the jellyfish's lethal body parts and other wildlife became trapped in a fatal web of stings.

Inwater Research Group biologists, who were onsite to oversee the plant's sea turtle protection program, poured vinegar over the swollen gills of trapped goliath groupers. Only ten were saved before the divers themselves had to be rescued. In all, upwards of 75 goliath grouper -- each weighing an average of 200 pounds -- were killed in the storm of rogue tentacles.

FPL is required to report any deaths of endangered species to Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Although the World Conservation Union (IUCN) considers these fish "Critically Endangered," in Florida, the massive groupers are only classified as prohibited.

Because of their impressive size (the largest one on record was 800 pounds), slow growth rate, and low rate of reproduction, the species population was in rapid decline before restrictions were placed in 1990. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission nows prohibits harvesting goliath groupers. If you inadvertently catch one, you must immediately release it back into the ocean. The sudden loss of almost a hundred goliath groupers is a big hit to the local population.

As far as the jellyfish, they might be coming back. Last week, tourists spotted a mass of moon jellyfish off the coast of Pompano Beach. Keep an eye out for lifeguards' purple warning flags. Marine Biological Association spokesmen say sudden blooms can be linked to climate change and overfishing of jellyfish predators.

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