“Jellyballs” are a small cannonball jellyfish caught by fisherman off the coast of states like Florida and Georgia. Most Americans dislike their bland taste and blobby texture, so fisheries in the United States export them to Asian countries like China, Japan and Thailand where there’s a surging market for them.
However, there’s a growing face-off between fisherman and environmentalists over the fate of the U.S. jellyball industry.
Processors in Georgia and Florida already export millions of pounds of jellyballs to Asia each year, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. Many fisheries see exporting jellyballs as a way to revitalize the distressed U.S. shrimping industry, and a South Carolina company now wants to build the first jellyball processing plant in the United States.
Carolina Jelly Balls was supposed to open for business in February in Lobeco, South Carolina, but resistance from environmental groups and local residents has heated up, preventing the company from moving forward with its plan. “Stop the Jellyballs!” has launched a campaign against the company’s plans to build a jellyball dehydration facility, saying the processing would hurt the local groundwater supply, pollute the air with noxious odors and produce harmful discharge.
Fisheries, on the other hand, say jellyball fishing and processing creates a great opportunity to revitalize the U.S. shrimping industry, which has suffered greatly in recent years. Carolina Jelly Balls CEO Steven Giese told National Public Radio that fisherman can make up to $10,000 a day trawling for jellyfish. “In one jellyfish season, a fisherman can make as much money as he makes in three or four shrimp seasons," he said.
Giese and others jellyball industry supporters argue that building up the U.S. jellyball industry may even create new opportunities to sell jellyfish to Americans who might start appreciating their health benefits and taste. But even some fisherman who catch them are skeptical: “Actually they taste a little like the gristle of a chicken bone,” Thornell King, who catches jellyballs in Georgia, told Voice of America.
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