Today’s Solutions: October 26, 2021

If you have to spend the evening alone, eating sushi can be a wonderful remedy to make you feel better. But that’s not the only thing sushi is good for. At a time where sea urchins are rapidly multiplying and destroying vast swaths of kelp forests, sushi could provide the perfect answer to this environmental disaster.

The problem with sea urchins is that they’re extremely voracious. Once they run out of kelp to eat, they do not simply die. Instead, they can stay in stasis for years, billions of them starving in their shells. This makes it impossible for the kelp forests to recover unless the urchins are removed entirely.

Urchinomics, a company based out of Norway, has a plan for that. Their idea is to turn the hordes of urchins around the world into a business opportunity by collecting them, feeding them up on sustainably harvested, umami-rich kombu seaweed and selling the lucrative roe to high-end sushi restaurants.

The company has just announced it has signed a lease to open its first urchin ranch in Norway, where 80 billion of the creatures are estimated to have ravaged kelp forests along the country’s coastline. Urchinomics hopes the site in Stavanger will supply Michelin-starred sushi restaurants in London, Amsterdam, and Brussels this summer.

Though Urchinomics will start its kelp farming in Norway, its solution is not limited to the Nordic country. From the North Sea to Tasmania, large parts of these underwater carbon stores – crucial for biodiversity – have vanished, leaving vast “urchin barrens” on the seafloor in their place. If Urchinomics can solve the problem in Norway using sushi as their main weapon, who’s to say they can’t succeed in other places around the world?

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