From pest to delicacy - Cflow provides equipment for sea urchin aquaculture

In several oceans, sea urchins have become a significant environmental issue, devouring kelp forests and leaving behind underwater deserts. In doing so, they have also eliminated the habitat for many of their natural predators. By encouraging the capture of sea urchins, one can reduce the pressure on kelp forests while also contributing to the production of an exclusive and sought-after delicacy.

In collaboration with Urchinomics, Cflow is developing a solution for sea urchin aquaculture

Land-based Aquaculture

Kelp forests are the rainforests of the sea, acting as a green lung in the ocean and providing food and shelter for countless species. The overpopulation of sea urchins poses a growing environmental problem that threatens kelp forests. They consume any available kelp, leaving barren areas on the ocean floor.

Cflow is developing facilities for sea urchin aquaculture to incentivize sea urchin harvesters to retrieve them from overpopulated areas and feed them until they are filled with roe, ready to be sold as a delicacy.

In collaboration with Urchinomics, Cflow is developing a solution where sea urchins from underwater deserts are fed in onshore facilities until they are filled with roe. The prototype is currently being tested in two provinces in Japan, with further tests planned in Canada. As part of their ongoing research and development efforts, Cflow has also been granted permission to engage in aquaculture in Langevåg.

Sustainable resource utilization

The immense appetite of sea urchins for kelp has consequences for numerous species living in or dependent on kelp forests. Kelp serves as a crucial nursery area for many fish species crucial to the fishing industry, and in Norway, the decline of kelp forests has been directly linked to the decrease in cod populations. Large kelp plants are also vital for carbon sequestration, helping limit ocean acidification.

In some areas, measures have been taken to eradicate sea urchins in underwater deserts to allow kelp forests to regrow. Instead of seeing them as a threat, Cflow aims to turn them into a resource.

Cflow's biologist, Frida Segafredo at Cflow's sea urchin facility in Langevåg. Foto: Kjersti Kvile, Fiskeribladet

Opportunity for the cultivation of other species

The project is also part of Cflow's international aquaculture initiative, and there are opportunities to develop the concept for the cultivation of other species, such as flatfish, shrimp, oysters, and sea cucumbers.

Salmon aquaculture represents only 5% of global aquaculture, and even though Cflow supplies a significant amount to the salmon industry, they seek expertise beyond traditional Norwegian fishing and aquaculture.

A permit for sea urchin aquaculture in Holsneset could mean a lot for the company, which places a strong emphasis on research and development.

Cflow's biologist, Frida Segafredo explains:

"At Cflow we want to evolve and try to see the transferable value in everything we do. We hope that the learning from the sea urchin facility will also be useful for our development in other areas. Being able to conduct experimental aquaculture on our facility with our own engineers and biologists as caretakers will provide valuable learning and firsthand information to strengthen our expertise in aquaculture."

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