A big load of jellyfish could arrive at Port Royal's shrimp docks in the next few weeks -- a delivery aimed at showing residents what a proposed jellyfish processing operation would entail.
Millenarian Trading Co. is working with the town, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the S.C. State Ports Authority to bring cannonball jellyfish into the docks and process them in Gardens Corner. The jellyfish would then be dried in salt and alum for several days -- a labor-intensive process, company officials say -- then packaged for distribution.
"We feel that by people actually seeing the jellyfish unloaded and seeing it leave, they'll see it's no different than any other seafood product," company representative Steven Giese said.
He also hopes the demonstration will put residents' fears -- and noses -- to rest.
Millenarian is modeling its plan after Raffield Fisheries in Port St. Joe, Fla., instead of the Darien, Ga., plant owned by Golden Island International that has been much-discussed since Millenarian proposed bringing its operation to Port Royal.
The Darien plant processes jellyfish on the waterfront, in the middle of town, and stores its machinery outside because of limited space, according to Giese. That causes an odor. The plant also creates and reuses salt water to clean the fish, raising yet more stink, Giese said.
"Jellyfish do have a strong odor, but if you do it in a controlled environment and do it properly ... then you don't have the buildup of odors in your plant," he said.
Port Royal's shrimp docks are owned by the Ports Authority and leased to the town for use as a seafood unloading point. A long-term plan calls for swapping the docks for a parking lot the town owns, after the authority sells the Port of Port Royal property.
Town manager Van Willis said the town is working with Millenarian on the trial run and believes it is allowed by the lease.
Ports Authority and town officials met with Giese last week to discuss the plan. Authority spokeswoman Allison Skipper said the agency is reviewing the plan but has some reservations.
"The scope of the proposed project is much larger than anticipated and may not be compatible with the redevelopment of the terminal property, as envisioned by the town, which would provide for public access to the water," Skipper said in an email.
The trial run is on hold until DNR issues experimental permits for jellyfish to be unloaded at the docks, but Giese said he expects those to be secured soon. The company would then have two years to prove jellyfish processing is a viable industry for South Carolina, he said.
Giese is working on a field trip to the Raffield operation for local and state officials to show them how the company operates. A video of the process is on its website.