Italian Scientists Want People to Eat the Jellyfish Crowding Their Beaches
The jellyfish are coming. They’re taking over the oceans in vast numbers, crowding beaches, and confining sunbathers to the safety of the sand. Some scientists have suggested snacking on jellyfish chips to help curb their numbers, and in Italy, where the jellyfish are swarming the once tranquil waters of the Mediterranean, researchers are now also encouraging people to eat the creatures, hoping to once again free up the oceans for would-be swimmers.
The New York Times reports that, as a result of climate change, the oceans are staying warmer longer, allowing jellyfish to bred without any hindrances. Warmer waters kill off jellyfish predators, and they can lay as many as 45,000 eggs per day.
Now, a professor of zoology named Stefano Piraino has launched the Go Jelly project, a study that will launch this January. Piraino has already created a type of netting that keeps poisonous jellyfish (the inedible kind) away from beaches. Now, he wants to find out if there’s a way—if their numbers can’t be reduced—to make food from them: The Go Jelly project aims to prove that the increasingly huge jellyfish blooms that plague the oceans can be used as a near-endless supply of sustenance.
Antonella Leone, Piraino’s wife, is a researcher at Italy’s Institute of Sciences of Food Production. She hypothesizes that Italians might be attracted to jellyfish because of their “zeal for locally sourced regional ingredients” (in Asia, jellyfish are already a delicacy). Leone and Piraino are now gathering jellyfish from the oceans and using a restaurant in the city of Lecce as a test kitchen—frying, boiling, and even marinating slices of sea creature in garlic (which Piraino says are full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids) to create dishes that they hope Italians will be willing to try.
If the jellyfish are going to continue to conquer the oceans, our only option might be to get on board with the Italian attitude—that is, if we want to keep spending our summers at the beach.