Enhancement of Gonad or Roe in the Green Sea Urchin Using Summer Photoperiod and Naturally Occurring Phytoestrogens in a Land-Based Aquaculture Facility
Award last edited on: 4/11/02

Sponsored Program
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Principal Investigator
Michael Devin

Company Information

Acadia Seafood International

193 Clark's Cove
Walpole, ME 04573
   (207) 563-3146
Location: Single
Congr. District: 01
County: Lincoln

Phase I

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This SBIR Phase 1 project tests a pilot version of a land-based aquaculture facility for the green sea urchin (Stronglylocentrotus droebachiensis), a commercially imported species not previously cultured as adult organisms. We will develop an alternative technology for the New England fishery which now depends only on harvest of wild urchins. Sea urchin roe is a delicacy in Japan that is the basis of a 250 millions+ dollar fishery (Watts et al., 1998). Over fishing has devastated natural populations. High quality urchin roe is characterized be size, taste, color, texture and FIRMness. We will produce and evaluate a crop of sea urchins containing high quality roe (gonads) using the Lawrence urchin diet and by manipulating their gametogenic cycle by photoperiod and by a treatment with estrogen or the phytoestrogen, genestein. Our studies indicate that manipulation of diet can economically bring urchins gonads of low quality to high quality in 3 months, raising whole urchin prices from 70 cents/lb to $5.50/lb. In Phase 2 of this project, our understanding of diet and phytoestrogen effects obtained above and photoperiod manipulation of gametogenesis will be coupled to produce additional crops outside of the normal urchin reproductive season to coincide with other periods when demand is greater than supply. If adopted by the fishery, this innovative aquaculture effort would focus on high end product, use fewer animals to maximize profits and place considerable less stress on natural populations. COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: With success of both Phase 1 and 2 of our pilot program, we will build a new facility containing a 100 module system (700,000 urchins). At harvest from the wild, 7 urchins/lb gives 100,000lbs. These will cost 70 cents/lb or $70,000 to harvest. At sale, 5 urchins/lb yields 140,000lbs. Deducting 10% for mortality/sampling leaves 126,000lbs of salable urchins at $5.50/lb FOB Boston. Sale price per crop is $693,000. With additional crops resulting from diet and photoperiod manipulation, a yearly profit of $800,000 is anticipated. It is estimated that 10 such facilities could exist in Main

Phase II

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