Urchin aquaculture company endorsed by UN’s Ocean Decade
The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) announced on 7 January that Urchinomics has been formally endorsed as an “Ocean Decade action.”
The endorsement by the Ocean Decade marks the third time ever that a for-profit company has been highlighted by the Ocean Decade, an awareness campaign run by the U.N. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). So far, the Ocean Decade has endorsed 157 actions, that may include activities, contributions, programs, or projects – but the vast majority of those have been NGOs, governments, or research bodies.
“We’re always seeking to identify partners, initiatives, and commercial ventures that aim to secure the future of the oceans, and indeed the welfare of our planet,” Ocean Decade Coordinator Julian Barbière said. “Urchinomics’ solution for innovation in the production and processing of seafood that also supports restoration of kelp forests is very much part of the multifaced solution we seek to identify and promote in the framework of the Ocean Decade.”
Overpopulation of sea urchins can denude kelp forests to create “urchin barrens.” Urchinomics, which collected JPY 630 million (USD 5.7 million, EUR 4.9 million) in Series A funding in March 2021, harvests undersized or underfilled sea urchins and feeds them a proprietary feed for six to 12 weeks to enhance their roe (uni in Japanese), then sells it to restaurants. The company operates commercially in Japan and is setting up operations in California, Canada, and Norway to help combat the destruction of kelp forests. By removing urchins, Urchinomics' business model helps restore kelp forests, which in turn supports greater marine biomass, biodiversity, and capacity to sequester CO2, according to the UN.
Whether this approach can actually restore kelp forests depends on whether they can nearly eradicate urchins in a particular area, as it only takes a small number to consume new growth or repopulate.
The IOC named the period from 2021 to 2030 as the “UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” or “Ocean Decade” for short, and the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed it on 5 December, 2017. The purpose of the declaration is to highlight science and activities that contribute to the health of the oceans, and to promote collaboration and information-sharing among stakeholders.
Ocean Decade is currently organized by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany. It was launched with a conference in Berlin on 1 June, 2021. Additionally, a series of seven online sessions called Ocean Decade Laboratories were organized from July 2021 to May 2022, corresponding with seven goals for the oceans: that they should be inspiring and engaging (to society), predicted, clean, healthy and resilient, safe, accessible (regarding data), and productive.
Photo courtesy of Urchinomics