Georgia Shrimpers Embrace a Pesky Ocean Creature that China Loves

‘It’s a particularly unsexy ingredient’

Caroline Hatchett


Champ Warren stands ankle deep in jellyfish on board the Blessed Assurance off the coast of Georgia. Warren, a deckhand, and Capt. Grovea Simpson, right, both residents of Darien, Ga., found they can make more money catching cannonball jellies in a few hours than spending a week at sea in pursuit of the elusive Georgia white shrimp. Rick Loomis for Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Boone family made their living shrimping along the Georgia coast for generations. As Greg Boone tells it, his grandaddy and his cousins constructed a 45-foot boat and floated down the Altamaha River to Darien, where he built a commercial shrimp boat dock. The Boones have fished there ever since.

But shrimpers are endangered. There were once as many as 1,500 shrimp boats off the Georgia coast, but this season, only 200 registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources — a third of which were out-of-state vessels.

Shrimpers like Boone had to get creative. In Georgia, that means harvesting jellyfish.

“You have to be a businessman to survive [as a shrimper],” said Julie Califf, a marine biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “You have to think about the market and regulations. Insurance is more expensive, and the price of shrimp has not risen, even if corrected for inflation. You have to be able to juggle all of that and plan for lean and fat times of year.”

Part of that business equation for Boone has been harvesting Stomolophus meleagris, or cannonball jellyfish, for almost two decades. In China and elsewhere in Asia, jellyfish bells…