Canonball Jellyfish Jellyfish
Jellyfish (jellies in scientific literature) are in the Phylum Cnidaria along with Corals and Hydra. They have existed for between 500 and 700 million years. They start life much like a soft coral, as a polyp attached to a substrate, but when they reach a certain stage of maturity, they absorb their tentacles, and the stem casts off several disks, which become free swimming organisms called medusa. The stem may return to the polyp stage and later cast off more disks. Most medusas grow long tentacles with a great many toxic stinging cells. Many varieties can be painful, dangerous or deadly when encountered by humans. A very few jellyfish are fished for human food, all from order Rhizostomae. These are larger, less toxic species. The Cannonball Jelly in the photo (top left) is an example. When disturbed, it exudes mucous containing a cardiac toxin that is also painful to the eyes. It does not sting, is not particularly dangerous, and can easily be cleaned up.   Photo by Dauphin Island Sea Lab contributed to the Public Domain.

Excess jellyfish can be disastrous to fisheries, because they can wipe out fish eggs, recently hatched fish, and all the planktonic critters larger fish depend on for food. Large "blooms" of jellyfish are becoming more and more common, usually blamed on global warming and overfishing.

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Edible Jellyfish

Below are the jellyfish most noted for being edible. This is not a complete list, but contains all the most popular. Dangerous and non-edible jellyfish have been omitted.

Live Blue Blubber Jellyfish Jelly Blubber   -   [Blue Blubber; Catostylus mosaicus]

This is an Indo Pacific jellyfish which can be white, blue or brown in color, and can grow to a bell size of 18 inches diameter. It is very common along the east coast of Australia.   Photo by Steven G. Johnson distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Live Sand Jellyfish Sand Jellyfish   -   [Flame Jellyfish; Catostylus mosaicus also Rhopilema hispidium]

These are the jellyfish most eaten in Japan and China. They are native to the Yellow Sea and East China Sea. The bell is thick and stiff, and can be as wide as 28 inches. Millions are now being pond reared to 1/2 inch diameter. They are then released into fishing areas to grow out to commercial size.   Photo by OpenCage distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.5 Generic.

Live Cannonball Jellyfish Cannonball Jellyfish   -   [Jellyball; Stomolophus meleagris]

These jellyfish, growing to 10 inches across, are common along the Atlantic coast of the Americas, from New England to Brazil. They are also found along the Pacific coast from California to Ecuador, and in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. They are the third largest fishery in the state of Georgia, after shrimp and crabs, where they are processed and shipped to Japan, China and Thailand.   Photo by Dauphin Island Sea Lab contributed to the Public Domain.

Live Namura's Jellyfish Namura's Jellyfish   -   [Nemopilema nomurai]

This is a very large jellyfish, growing to a little over 6-1/2 feet across and 440 pounds. It inhabits the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, and its numbers have increased until it is a serious pest to the fishing fleet. One trawler was capsized and sank while trying to retrieve its nets, which were full of jellyfish. Effort is under way to figure out how to use these critters as food. One company is making an ice cream with vanilla and Namura's Jellyfish.   Photo by KENPEI distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported Attribution Required.

Live Moon Jelly Moon Jelly   -   [Common Jellyfish, Saucer Jelly; Aurelia aurita and all other species in genus Aurelia]

These translucent jellyfish are found worldwide from near the Arctic south to the tip of South Africa, and can grow to 16 inches in bell diameter. They do sting, but not strongly or dangerously. Moon Jellies are found near the shore, where they mostly just drift around, because they are very poor swimmers. They are edible, but I haven't found any evidence they are used commercially. Commercial processors prefer jellyfish with thicker, firmer bells. There are several reports from people who have eaten Moon Jellies fresh, and have reported them tasty with a little lime juice or dip. They must be eaten very soon after catching or they liquify and get smelly.   Photo by Julian Fahrbach distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Germany.

Health & Nutrition

Exposure to live jellyfish can range from annoying to very painful to deadly, and is best avoided. Rubbing affected areas with vinegar or salt water is useful, and scraping the affected area with a safety razor, knife blade, credit card or other sharp edged item can remove unfired nematocysts to help reduce pain. Fresh water, alcohol and urine are to be avoided as they may cause more of the nematocysts to fire their toxic darts. Nematocists are mostly triggered by contact with skin chemicals, and they are minute, so even panty hose holds them far enough away to provide protection.

Commercially prepared jellyfish is safe, because the toxic parts and materials have all been removed. Some are concerned over the possibility of residual aluminum from treatment with alum, which is used by some processors to firm up the product.

"Dried" jellyfish is still about about 90% water, with about 8% protein, almost all of which is collagen. The other 2% consists of a tiny bit of fat, minerals and other substances. Jellyfish is very low in calories.

Jellyfish collagen is prepared from dried jellyfish, packaged in capsules and used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. This treatment is still experimental and not yet recognized by the FDA.

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