The only salmon farm in Northern Ireland has lost its entire stock of more than 100,000 fish to a spectacular jellyfish attack, its owners announced on Wednesday.
The Northern Salmon Co said billions of jellyfish -- in a dense pack stretching across 25km2 and 10m deep -- overwhelmed the fish in two net pens about 1.5km off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast, last week.
Managing director John Russell said a 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 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 faces likely closure unless it receives emergency aid from the British government.
"It's a disaster," he said.