Friday Reads: The Jellyfish Typhoon Edition

Part of a series of Friday posts on the fascinating natural world around us

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The jellyfish are coming! The jellyfish are coming! Off the coast of Japan, fishing boats are locked in battle with a veritable armada of jellyfish. They actually sank one boat! Also known as Echizen kurage or Nemopilema nomurai, Nomura’s jellyfish aren’t your garden variety jellyfish, growing 6 feet long and 400 pounds heavy.

The jellyfish are thought to originate in the Yellow Sea, picking up a pound or several hundred as ocean currents propel them towards the Sea of Japan. Hiroshima University Professor Ue Shinichi, a leading jellyfish researcher, told Yomiuri Shimbun:

The arrival is inevitable. A huge jellyfish typhoon will hit the country.

Arriving in Japanese waters, the jellyfish run afoul of fishermen. Their huge size and sheer numbers break nets, and poison, crush, and slime the fishermen’s catch.

Last week, the 10-ton Japanese fishing vessel Daisan Shinso-maru bit off more than it could chew, capsizing while attempting to bring in a net full of jellyfish. (All the crew members were safely rescued.)

This is a sight not seen since…2007. The jellyfish masses have become common in recent years—but prior to 2002, they were a rarity in Japanese waters. Global warming, eutrophication (a buildup of plant nutrients), overfishing (of species that keep the Nomura’s jellyfish population in check), and water flow altered by large-scale damming (hint: Three Gorges Dam) have all been fingered as possibilities for the growing armada of jellies.

Professor Ue muses,

…the problem seems to be industrial development. ‘It’s like a harmless living thing has been angered,’ he says. ‘The reason for its anger might lie with human activity.’

Meanwhile, when life gives you Nomura’s jellyfish, make jellyfish lemonade—or at least, jellyfish candy, cocktails, and…ice cream?

A company called Tango Jersey Dairy sells vanilla and jellyfish ice cream, created by soaking diced cubes of Echizen kurage in milk. The resulting dessert is described as ‘slightly chewy.’

Bon appetit.

More Reads:
Need more giant sea creatures? Giant Squid Eaten by Sperm Whale, National Geographic
Need more futuristic sea creatures? More robotic fish spawned to monitor water quality, gizmag
Produce tattoos: Low-Energy Laser Etching Could Replace Annoying Fruit Labels, Inhabitat
Look, but don’t touch: 13 Of The World’s Prickliest Critters, Huffington Post

Shirley undertakes sous chef duties on Earthjustice’s website, serving up interactive online features for our advocacy campaign and litigation work.