Howell says indications were that 2011 and 2012 were "low years," and she adds the data from the 2013 survey hasn't been compiled yet.
Decker says those results tally with what she knows about the rise and fall of lion's mane in the Sound. "We have very high years, and years when the jellies are very low," she says. " was sort of a medium year for lion's mane." .
Howell says it appears that the numbers of jellies in the Sound rise and fall depending on how fierce our winter storms are and how many jelly predators are around. A bad winter means that not as many jelly polyps (sort of immature jellyfish that cling to stuff on the sea bottom until they're ready for the "medusa" stage with tentacles) survive.
The DEEP's annual survey is geared toward fin fish species, and doesn't count many of the smaller jellies causing huge problems in other parts of the world.
And some of these troublemakers, like the "comb jelly" (Mnemiopsis leidyi), look like jellyfish with their transparent, gelatinous bodies, but are actually a different species. In some scientific studies, the authors get all ticked off if you try to lump comb jellies in with "true" jellyfish like the lion's mane.
It was the comb jellyfish that devastated Black Sea fisheries and, in 2002, put a serious hit on fishing in Narragansett Bay by scarfing up all sorts of fish eggs and other marine creatures that fish need as food.
Despite the limited nature of the DEEP surveys, Decker thinks "it's great they are paying attention to jellies." She believes that more studies like that will eventually give researchers the sort of accurate, long-term data they need.
"We don't have time data for jellies in Long Island Sound," Decker says.
Without it, there's no good way to tell if the Jellyfish Apocalypse is really in our future.