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LETTER: Balance is vital in developing farmed sea urchin resource

Roe can be found in both male and female urchins.
Roe can be found in both male and female urchins. - file photo

I am a resident of St. John’s originally from Japan, and I really love sushi.

The favourite sushi item is sea urchin roe. It is great to hear that sea urchin farming is about to kick off in Newfoundland and sea urchin roe might be available at sushi restaurants in St. John’s or around Canada in the near future.

In 2013, “Washoku,” which are Japanese dishes including sushi, were listed as an UNESCO intangible cultural heritage asset.

Therefore, I assume the demand for sea urchins has increased as a popular Japanese delicacy. I have read some articles that sea urchin farming, especially roe enhancement, is now of great interest as a measure to mitigate grazing of kelp forest by native sea urchins, in North America, and elsewhere.

The roe enhancement using sea urchins from barren areas should be beneficial in meeting increasing demand for sea urchins and rehabilitating kelp forests.

I really welcome that sea urchins becomes more available to anyone and anywhere in the world. But, simultaneously, I worry about the decrease in market price when production of enhanced roe increases.

The sea urchin is a symbol of highly prized seafood in sushi markets. One of the reasons for the high price is the labour intensiveness in processing.

The increase in sea urchin production will lead to the decrease in market price, and therefore there’s a risk of collapse in the sea urchin processing industry. I think that the balance between demand and supply of farmed sea urchin will be the key for successful and sustainable growth of the sea urchin industry.

The market segmentation of wild and farmed sea urchin may also be important not to affect existing markets for connoisseurs, and a unique marketing strategy is required for farmed sea urchins to create and expand niche markets.

By the way I really look forward to tasting Newfoundland-raised sea urchins at a local sushi restaurant.

Yota Kano

Marine Institute sustainable aquaculture student

St. John’s

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Baie Verte Peninsula being tested for sea urchin farming pilot project

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