UCC researchers developed the first and only sea urchin raising technology in the world. (Photo: University College Cork)
Scientists cultivate sea urchins
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Friday, January 08, 2010, 02:00 (GMT + 9)
Scientists from the University College Cork (UCC) are using a new farming system to exploit the USD 200 million-global market for sea urchins through patents it has set up in 19 countries.
Although sea urchins were never popular in Ireland, the country was a major European exporter of wild sea urchins in the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when several hundred tonnes were exported annually. However, due to over-harvesting, the Irish wild stocks were deemed depleted in 1996, and now Ireland exports less than 10 tonnes of sea urchins a year.
Over the past seven years, researchers in UCC have used funding from Enterprise Ireland to develop the world’s first and only system for culturing sea urchins.
Known as the UrchinPlatter System, the new technology allows farmers to culture sea urchins quickly and efficiently. By using only natural seaweed as feed, the system avoids the pitfalls of using artificial diets, which are known to have caused problems in other types of marine farming.
"The potential for this type of sea urchin technology is huge," stated Dr Gerry Mouzakitis, founder
of Gourmet Marine Ltd, reports Irish Examiner. "Wherever you look in the world, wild sea urchin stocks are over-harvested and are not sustainable.”
Dr Gerry Mouzakitis, founder of Gourmet Marine Ltd. (Photo: University College Cork )
"The UrchinPlatter System can change all that and allow the production of a healthy, natural seafood product that doesn’t harm the marine environment," he pointed out.
Apart from being the first sea urchin farming technology in the world, the UrchinPlatter System is also the first aquaculture technology ever developed in this country.
"Ireland is currently the world leader in sea urchin farming. We want to maintain that lead," Mouzakitis commented.
Gourmet Marine recently partnered with Dunmanus Seafoods Ltd (Durrus, Co Cork) and produced the first out-of-season sea urchins.
"To really market test them, we organised a Sea Urchin Tasting Meeting," said Mouzakitis. "The response from the seafood chefs was fantastic. They loved them!"
By Natalia Real