TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) –– A slimy jellyfish weighing as much as a sumo wrestler has Japan’s fishing industry in the grip of its poisonous tentacles.
Vast numbers of Echizen kurage, or Nomura’s jellyfish, have appeared around Japan’s coast since July, clogging and ripping fishing nets and forcing fishermen to spend hours hacking them apart before bringing home their reduced catches.
Representatives of fishing communities around the country gathered in Tokyo on Thursday, hoping to thrash out solutions to a pest that has spread from the Japan Sea to the Pacific coast.
“It’s a terrible problem. They’re like aliens,” Noriyuki Kani of the fisheries federation in Toyama, northwest of Tokyo, told Reuters ahead of the conference.
There are no official figures on the size of the problem, but Kani says the financial losses are obvious.
“If your nets are full of jellyfish, of course there is no space for fish,” he said.
Cutting up and disposing of the giants can turn a three-hour fishing trip into a 10-hour marathon, while valuable fish are poisoned or crushed under the weight of the unwanted catch.
And what a catch. One Echizen kurage can be up to 2 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) in diameter and weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
Despite their size, the invertebrates aren’t toxic enough to cause serious harm to humans, but fishermen often wear goggles and protective clothing to avoid stings when dealing with them.”