7:04 AM PDT, July 11, 2021
Australians are currently on the hunt for devastating prey: Sea urchins.
Urchins aren’t very large, but the spiny sea creatures are causing big problems for ocean habitats. Masses of urchins are known to sweep through kelp beds, decimating the marine flora.
But there is one way to address the urchin threat: by eating them.
“Sea urchins are moving through these reefs, sometimes in really dense fronts, almost like little armies moving along and clearing everything in their path,” Dr. Paul Carnell from Deakin University explains.
“We can eat it and help solve an environmental problem at the same time.”
Sushi lovers may know urchin as uni. The underwater invaders are something of a delicacy in Japanese cuisine. There are even uni cocktails.
It’s hoped that human appetite for urchins can keep pace with urchins’ appetite for kelp. In the US, Pacific Purple Sea Urchins have destroyed 95% of the kelp forests between San Francisco and Oregon.
Kelp is a vital hedge against carbon dioxide accumulation — and thus, climate change — so it’s critical to protect kelp beds.
And if that means ordering a uni roll, uni bowl, or uni on toast, so be it.