Hundreds of thousands of Chrysaora jellyfish feeding in the bay waters Monday damaged a filter screen on the aquarium's water intakes, said Eric Quamen the aquarium's facilities systems supervisor.
"From an operations standpoint, it's a big deal. From the aquarium standpoint, it's a minor inconvenience," Quamen said. "The public would never notice."
A four-person dive team spent part of Tuesday repairing the damaged screen on the end of the quarter-mile-long intake system, he said.
The pipes pump about 2,000 gallons of water per minute from the bay into the aquarium for the exhibit tanks. Quamen said the screens on the ends of the pipes are designed to act as filters, but there has been a recent explosion in the number of jellyfish in the bay and the creatures are sometimes drawn to the screens.
When the jellyfish, some of which are up to four feet long, get caught in the system's current, the mass can crush or otherwise damage the screens, Quamen said.
Some jellyfish have been ground up in the water pumps after being pulled through the screen. Workers must use nets to remove the remains that wash into the discharge pool, Quamen said.
"We have had this happen before, although it is rare," he said.
The jellyfish forced the aquarium to cancel its Ocean Explorers program Tuesday for fear that children participating could be stung, said aquarium spokeswoman Karen Jeffries.
"It's like a bee sting and everyone reacts to it differently," she said.
Jeffries said the large bloom of jellyfish in Monterey Bay could be a result of ideal feeding conditions. Jellyfish enjoy high nitrate levels which can be naturally occurring or be caused by agricultural water runoff.
Quamen said replacing damaged screens costs a few hundred dollars and the problem should be resolved when the jellyfish migrate out of the bay.
Until then, "we are going to be dealing with this for a while," he said.
Daniel Lopez can be reached at 646-4494 or email@example.com.