Have you ever eaten sea urchin? If not then check out your nearest seafood restaurant or market & try some today! Sea urchin seafood is a bright orange/yellow edible roe or ‘uni’ . This can be eaten raw as sushi, is delicious with bread or made into a fresh pasta sauce. It is full of good lipids, fatty acids & carotenoids known to be good for your immune system & general health. Green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) are one the highest value species & can easily be grown in the cool waters of New England. There is a strong international demand for sea urchins, mostly driven by the Asian market, yet this demand is poorly met by North American supplies largely due to declining natural stocks & increased stock regulation. There is therefore substantial potential for aquaculture growth of this high value species & interest to grow sea urchins in New England is expanding which our new project will help support by providing seed & technical advice at no cost.
The University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (UME-CCAR) sea urchin hatchery produces seed each year for New England growers but the results each year can be variable. This makes it difficult to promise potential sea urchin farmers a reliable supply of low-cost seed each year. In order for profitable sea urchin aquaculture to be achieved, a supply of reliable & low-cost seed stock production is vital & there are many in the Northeast who would like to see this flourish. Hatcheries across the world show that it’s possible to reliably grow 100,000s of sea urchin seed in a predictable & cost-effective fashion. The challenge lies in optimizing the hatchery methods, which are specific to the species, the location & seawater conditions available to each hatchery. In many countries sea urchin hatcheries are government subsidized, whereas here in the US we need to show that the CCAR hatchery can be supported by industry.
This new 2 year project “Expanding green sea urchin production by removing key aquaculture challenges”, funded by the Northeastern Regional Aquaculture Center (NRAC) will improve Green Sea Urchin hatchery production, provide seed at no cost to growers, & inform the general industry about sea urchin aquaculture. The project is led by myself, Dr. Coleen Suckling (University of Rhode Island) with Steve Eddy the CCAR Director, Luz Kogson the CCAR Biologist & sea urchin hatchery expert as well as Dana Morse of the Maine Sea Grant who will oversee education & outreach & work with extension agents and stakeholders to help sea urchin aquaculture expand & grow within New England.
We are especially excited that the project enables us to offer sea urchin seedstock at no cost to new growers. We already have several growers we are working with & we’re looking to sign up more. We believe sea urchins are a natural fit with kelp aquaculture (their favorite food!) & oyster farms. If you’re interested, please contact Luz (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get on the list for seed & to receive project updates. If you have any other questions regarding the project then please contact the Lead Project Investigator, Coleen Suckling (email@example.com).
Project updates will also be made available through the the CCAR webpages & news here. Stay tuned!
CS is also partly funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Project #RI0019-H020).