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Jellyfish can ruin a summer vacation. Their presence on the coasts — which can neither be anticipated nor prevented — means at best not swimming and at worst a painful sting.
But an increase of swarms on Mediterranean shores has yet to reach levels that could supply a practical use for these creatures beyond their translucent poses in underwater photography.
The tons of jellyfish removed from the Spanish Mediterranean coasts every year are left to dry in the sun for 48 hours and then rinsed with fresh water. This puts an end to their toxicity. They are then treated as organic waste.
There are no specific businesses dedicated to jellyfish disposal. “A sector cannot be built on an unpredictable resource,” said Josep Maria Gili, a marine biologist with the Ocean Science Institute, belonging to the CSIC, the Center for Scientific Research.
That explains why other initiatives to exploit jellyfish have gone nowhere.
Bionaturis, a Spanish biotech company, conducted a study, together with Malaga University and Malaga Oceanographic Center, on jellyfish viability for a variety of uses, including as a fertilizer, in cuisine, and cosmetics.
Jellyfish are 95 percent water and the rest is protein, with virtually no lipids, carbohydrates or cholesterol, according to Bionaturis. So it would make a healthy food — but yummy? Some Chinese think so. Spanish media reported Chinese businessmen visited the Andalusian coast last summer, searching for this ingredient they reportedly often use in salads; although it seems they did not find the species or the amount here to their liking because a deal was never closed. A very small number of Spanish restaurants are introducing jellyfish into their menus, but it is far from being a popular Spanish tapa.
Jellyfish have high collagen content and thus could be used in anti-aging creams. If people can put snail slime on their faces, why not jellyfish jelly? But the Bionaturis study concluded the hordes of jellyfish arriving in the Spanish coasts are too erratic and small in number to make a reliable resource for an industry.