Rio History: Invasion of the Jellies

Special to the PRESS

The inconvenience caused by our little “purple balloons” (Portuguese Man of Wars) pales when compared to the impact that the giant Nomura jellyfish has made on the fishing industry of Japan. The venom of this behemoth blob, which can exceed 450 pounds, can ruin a day’s catch by tainting or killing fish ensnared with them in the maze of nets used by fishermen in northwest Japan’s Wakasa Bay.

The 2009 swarm was one of the worst anyone has ever seen. Once considered a rarity occurring every 40 years or so, they are now almost a daily occurrence along the Japanese coastline. In one instance, the weight of the jelly-filled nets capsized a 10-ton fishing trawler as the crew tried to haul in the catch. The damage caused by the jellies is estimated to be around $332 million a year. Scientists believe climate change and pollution are major factors in a worldwide explosion in the population of the more than 2,000 of the world’s jellyfish species. One 2008 study estimated that over 500,000 people a year are stung by jellyfish in Chesapeake Bay alone. Twenty to forty people die each year in the Philippines from jellyfish stings.

Addressing the surge in jellies must be part of a long term plan. In Japan, the government is helping finance the purchase of specially designed nets that snare jellies with one kind of net that allows the fish to swim through to be caught by another net. Their sheer numbers have inspired entrepreneurs to concoct recipes for jellyfish ice cream; another plans pickled plum dip laced with chunks of the giant jellyfish.

The jellyfish fishing industry is booming, as there are lots of jellyfish available in the ocean. The only drawback is that the jellyfish will spoil very fast and has to be processed immediately. The processing involves drying the water in the tissues of the jellyfish with the application of salt. The jellyfish is sold in the market in a dehydrated form, after the salting and dehydrating process. After you buy jellyfish you have to store it in a refrigerator if you are not going to cook it immediately.

For cooking jellyfish you have to first soak the jellyfish overnight in the refrigerator. Some people re-soak it in fresh water, for another 24 hours or so. The best way to cut the jellyfish is to roll up the flesh and slice it, so that you get thin julienne strips. These strips are then to be blanched. Blanching is a process where you put the strips of jellyfish in boiling water and then immediately immerse them in chilled water. The blanching can be repeated one more time, after which you drain off all the water. Now you can marinate these pieces with the seasoning of your choice, like vinegar, salt, spices and so on, and then add them to salads, or vegetables or other seafood dishes. After mixing the seasoning the marinating process should be done in the refrigerator. Usually the juices which collect after marinating are to be discarded as they might have harmful bacteria. If such marinating liquid is required, then you should reserve a separate portion, before you add the jellyfish.

The best type of jellyfish that is sold in the market is the cannonball jellyfish, which has collagen in its protein content, which is very useful for building the cell tissues, cartilage, teeth and bones of the body.

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