Associate Professor Symon Dworjanyn and federal Member for Cowper Mr Luke Hartsuyker, with sea urchins bound for export to Japan.
Associate Professor Symon Dworjanyn and federal Member for Cowper Mr Luke Hartsuyker, with sea urchins bound for export to Japan.

Ground-breaking research to supply Asian sushi market

AUSTRALIA could soon be supplying to the Asian sushi market under a new aquaculture program developed by Southern Cross University researchers.

The three-year project is identifying ways to improve the production of commercial quantities of sea urchins, and will help develop a new Australian aquaculture industry to tap into the profitable Japanese export market, worth around $US200 million a year.

The team is sending its first shipment of baby sea urchins to Japan in July.

Leading the program is Associate Professor Symon Dworjanyn, based at the SCU National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

"Increasing demand and reduced supply from collapsing wild fisheries are creating opportunities for commercial sea urchin culture in Australia,” Professor Dworjanyn said.

"The tropical sea urchin, Tripneustes gratilla,is fast growing and native to both Australia and Japan. Sea urchin roe for sushi and pasta dishes in Japan and parts of Asia is a favourite, but as the wild fish stock is being depleted the price is going up about 10 per cent each year,” he said.

Nationals Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker believes the research and innovation has the potential to grow our region.

"With the potential for growth in this export market, improving efficiency and industry standards could mean a tangible benefit to our region in terms of job creation and the economic flow-on effect,” said Mr Hartsuyker.

Sea urchin gonads - 'uni' - are prized by chefs the world over and is a high value product in the Japanese market.

The current market value for live sea urchins is approximately $9 per individual, or up to $1000 per kilogram for 'uni'.


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