GoJelly Project: jellyfish as a resource
Using jellyfish as a resource: this is the goal of the GoJelly Project, funded by the European Union with 6 million euro for a period of four years, involving a consortium of fifteen scientific institutions and companies from eight countries, including Italy, and coordinated by the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel.
Jellyfish are fascinating creatures but they can also be extremely dangerous. Some tropical species, for example, are among the most toxic animals in the world. Increased water temperatures, ocean acidity and overfishing seem to contribute to their proliferation. More and more often, masses of jellyfish reach the European coasts and can cause serious damage to aquaculture and mariculture and block the cooling systems of power stations located near the coast.
The GoJelly Project involves the development of basic research, since the life cycle of many jellyfish species is still scarcely known and it is almost impossible to predict proliferation phenomena. The aim is to reduce the large masses of jellyfish reaching the coasts. At the same time, the project partners will work towards their second objective, which is to answer the question: what to do with the caught biomass?
Antonella Leone, a researcher at the CNR, Institute of Sciences of Food Production, in Lecce, and her colleagues will study the biochemical, nutraceutical, microbiological and nutritional characteristics of Mediterranean and European jellyfish for their possible exploitation as food, food ingredient or source of bioactive compounds.
Researchers are considering using some species of jellyfish for food production. “In some cultures, such as in Asia, jellyfish are already on the menu. Once the final product has been adapted to western tastes and is produced in compliance with European food safety laws, it can be accepted by consumers”, said Antonella Leone. Finally, what is even more important, jellyfish contain collagen, a substance very much sought after in the cosmetics industry.
Jellyfish could also be used as fertilizer in agriculture or as feed for aquaculture. “Fish in fish farms are currently fed with captured fish, which increases the problem of sustainability. The use of jellyfish as feed, as well as being a much more sustainable product, would help to protect the natural fish stocks”, said the GoJelly Project researchers.
Finally, another objective of the project is to use jellyfish biomass to promote the development of innovative products or to minimize another man-made damage. “Studies have shown that jellyfish mucus can bind microplastics. Therefore, we want to test whether biofilters can be produced from jellyfish. These biofilters could then be used in sewage treatment plants or in factories where microplastic is produced”, added the GoJelly Project researchers.