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Fishing for jellyfish in Pakistan

April 23, 2012

Jellyfish that washed ashore on Sandspit beach at Karachi — Photo by Hammad A Abbasi

Previously deemed as waste, the recent surge in international demand for jellyfish has turned the tide of the local fishermen’s luck.

Until recently, fishermen considered jellyfish an obstacle and prayed for its riddance as overabundance of jellyfish can scare other marine life from the area. Any jellyfish that got caught with the regular prey were discarded but the tables turned five to seven years ago when international orders for jellyfish began coming in, which have now reached to a staggering 1,000 metric ton of jellyfish exported annually.

Catching a jellyfish is easier than fishing for other marine creatures as only a small racket-looking  trap is used. Women and children also fish for jellyfish on the shores by hand wearing gloves, without the need for any equipment.

No specialised fishing for jellyfish took place in Pakistan before 2011 but this season saw the formal beginning of specialised jellyfish fishing and small fishing launches are solely focusing on it. Jellyfish are caught so easily and at such a short distance from the shore that fishermen are able to make two trips in a day.

The trend is not just limited to fishermen rather normal civilians are taking on the activity and it is estimated that since the beginning of fishing season this month around a dozen launches had been hired by private citizens.

The price of each jellyfish in the local market is around 60-70 rupees where as the same jellyfish fetches USD 3 to USD 5 in the international market.

According to an estimate, 1500 trawlers fish around 30 tons of jellyfish daily.

When the boat owners found out about the profitable trend in fishing for jellyfish they stopped renting out their vessels altogether and began making the fishing trip themselves.

In general, jellyfish are used primarily for culinary purposes. They are eaten in many countries, specially in China and south east Asia. They are first dried and salted, then eaten later on in different forms after a long preparation process.

According to experts jellyfish have existed on the planet since 650 million years and there are more than 2,000 types of species available.