THEY are called echizen kurage and they sound like monsters from the trashier reaches of Japanese science fiction.
They are 6ft wide and weigh 450lb (200kg), with countless poisonous tentacles, they have drifted across the void to terrorise the people of Japan. Vast armadas of the slimy horrors have cut off the country's food supply. As soon as one is killed more appear to take its place.
Finally, the quarrelsome governments of the region are banding together to unite against the enemy.
Echizen kurage is not an extraterrestrial invader, but a giant jellyfish that is devastating the livelihoods of fishermen in the Sea of Japan. Nomura's jellyfish, as it is known in English, is the biggest creature of its kind off Japan and for reasons that remain mysterious its numbers have surged in the past few months.
Is this not the coolest thing to hit the news since that fake story of the lion-fighting midgets? And this is all real, baby. It gets better:
The problem first became obvious in the late summer when fishermen chasing anchovies, salmon and yellowtail began finding huge numbers of the jellyfish in their nets.
Often the weight of the echizen kurage broke the nets or crushed the fish to death; those that survived were poisoned and beslimed by their tentacles.
Yes, you read that right. Beslimed. Until I read this article I was unaware of the awesome uses of the 'be' prefix. In my innocence I knew only of 'bespeckled'. Now I wonder, what other words can be graced with the 'be'? Any verb? This opens doors, man. Leave it to the British to come up with really cool, incredibly useless words. More on jellyfish:
In Akita prefecture some communities saw their incomes fall by 80 per cent. The gizzard shad fishers of South Korea have also been plagued by the Nomura’s.
To me it sounds like the 'gizzard shad fishers' have been plagued with a terrible job.
"I say Bruce, have you seen my portfolio lately? Gold is through the roof! How 'bout that!"
"Actually, I'm in Gizzard Shad, mostly."
"Oh. ...How's that going?"
"...Not so good."
"You see, there's these jellyfish.."
"They're really big."
In some places jellyfish density is reported to be a hundred times higher than normal. Worst of all, no one yet understands why. One theory is that global warming is heating up the seawater and encouraging jellyfish breeding.
Another theory is that giant jellyfish have a proclivity for eating scientists who blame everything on global warming. You've been warned.
Some observers "blame heavy rains in China over the summer". Which is, incidentally, what I blamed my last late essay assignment on.
In the meantime locals are making the best of it — rather than just complaining about jellyfish they are eating them.
This reminds me of when I decided to stop just complaining about babies.
Jellyfish are an unusual ingredient of Japanese cuisine but are much more prized in China. Coastal communities are doing their best to promote jellyfish as a novelty food, sold dried and salted.
Students in Obama have managed to turn them into tofu, and jellyfish collagen is reported to be beneficial to the skin.
"So, I rub the jellyfish...on my body.."
"....and thats good?"
"mm hmm, right. For the skin."
"...You aren't just saying this because you have thousands of dead, gigantic jellyfish?"
These interesting, useless facts, previously known by less than 5 individuals worldwide, were also among the wealth of knowledge imparted unto me by The Times Online:
- The most poisonous jellyfish is the Australian sea wasp, or box jellyfish, with enough venom to kill 60 people. Wearing tights is an effective defence.
This is also an effective defense against meeting members of the opposite sex.
- A collection of jellyfish is known as a smack.
I suppose, and maybe I'm wrong here, that it would then stand to reason that a collection of female jellyfish is known as a 'bitch smack'.
..And I'm through.