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Business and Economy

Budding Maine Urchin Industry Gets $100,000 Boost From USDA

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
This Dec. 22, 2011 photo, a tray of sea urchin roe is at a processing facility in Portland, Maine.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to boost efforts to create a viable sea-urchin aquaculture sector in the Gulf of Maine.

Maine’s wild urchin fishery is still tightly regulated after being overharvested decades ago. Steve Eddy, director of the University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research, says oyster and seaweed farmers could benefit by adding urchins to their crops for sale to Asian markets or live delivery to American restaurants.

“In Japan and maybe like France and Greece, some parts of Europe, where people buy live, whole urchins, they will pay $2, $3, as much as $5 per animal,” he says.

Wholesale prices would likely be lower. But before a Gulf of Maine urchin aquaculture sector could get up and running, Eddy says, methods for hatching and growing seedlings will need to be improved.

The $100,000 federal grant will enhance techniques already under development at the university research station in Franklin.