How You Can Save the Environment by Eating Uni
If you are a fan of sushi, then you have probably eaten sea urchin or “Uni” —and probably noticed how expensive the delicacy can be. You might think that Uni is a rarity, and in some places (and some species), that is actually true. But on the west coast of North America, the opposite is true—and that is becoming a major problem. Uni normally lives solitary lives, but lately, there has been an increase in the population of the purple urchins that populate the coast that stretches between Vancouver Island and California, and it is having a hugely detrimental effect on the ocean’s ecosystem. The urchins are thriving due to red tide algae and a virus that has decimated the starfish population, which means that there are now no natural predators to keep the urchins at bay. Urchins can eat just about anything and are opportunistic feeders, so as their population has grown, they have started munching on kelp—a sea plant that is essential to the aquatic environment. Kelp helps to sustain the bottom layer of the food chain along the West Coast, but with entire forests of kelp being obliterated by the sea urchin, the entire ecosystem is being thrown into disarray. What the ecosystem needs are a natural predator to bring the sea urchin population back down to sustainable levels. And if the ocean can’t currently provide that — well there might be someone else who can.
We, humans, love to eat delicious treats, and the uni that can be harvested from Uni is one of the tastiest. While humanity’s tendency to over-consume often has negative effects, for once, the opposite might prove to be true. By increasing the demand for uni, we will motivate fishermen to harvest more Uni, thereby decreasing the population and providing a respite for kelp forests that desperately need to regenerate. Yep, you read that right—we can save the environment by eating more uni! And the best day to do that, of course, is sushi.
So next time you feel like doing something good for Mother Earth, head down to your local sushi bar. Order something delicious (while making sure that any fish you consume was responsibly caught, of course), and make sure that it comes with a healthy serving of uni from purple Uni.
Let’s save the planet with our chopsticks!