Ava Ocean receives 47 million n to tackle urchin barrens and restore kelp forests in Northern Norway using unique seabed harvesting technology

The Ocean Green project, led by Ava Ocean, secures NOK 47 million from the Norwegian government Green Platform grant to eliminate sea urchin deserts and rejuvenate kelp forests along the Norwegian coast.

The project aims to develop a sustainable value chain through restorative harvesting, developing novel products of the harvested sea urchins which pose a serious threat to coastal ecosystems in Norway and many other locations worldwide.

Building upon Ava Ocean's revolutionary seabed harvesting gear, already successfully employed in Arctic scallop fishing in the Barents Sea and recognized as the only one of its kind globally, the patented technology will now be adapted for effective yet gentle harvesting of sea urchins.

Dagny-Elise Anastassiou, Sustainability Manager at Ava Ocean, states, "Through the Ocean Green project, we intend to showcase how our innovative seabed harvesting technology can play a crucial role in the restoration of kelp forests. By employing our unique harvesting system, we can address the challenges posed by invasive sea urchins and explore new avenues for utilizing these resources sustainably."

Green Platform to drive green transition in Norwegian industry

The Green Platform, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries and jointly administered by the Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway, and Siva, has allocated a total of NOK 573 million in this year's call for projects aimed at driving green transition initiatives.

Minister of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries Jan Christian Vestre emphasizes the importance of the Green Platform's support in advancing sustainable practices, stating, "Green Platform's goal is to accelerate green transition in business. The substantial support we provide to these impactful projects is a vital contribution to the government's objectives for green transition and economic growth."

Ocean Green Consortium: A Collaborative Effort for Sustainable Impact

Ava Ocean leads the Ocean Green project consortium, which includes key partners such as Wild Lab Projects, NIBIO, NIVA, Akvaplan Niva, Hofseth Biocare, and Wandering Owl. Together, they represent a strategic collaboration between industry and research environments, working toward the ambitious goals of the project.

"We are thrilled that the Green Platform has entrusted us and our esteemed partners with the responsibility to embark on this exciting journey. The Ocean Green project potential extends beyond Norway's borders, offering positive impacts, and aims to derive economic value from sea urchins that pose a significant threat to coastal ecosystems," comments Anastassiou.

Restorative Harvesting: Addressing Challenges and Creating Opportunities

The three-year project, starting early 2024, focuses on addressing the challenges posed by extensive sea urchin populations in the Tromsø area. The development of specialized harvesters for sea urchins, based on Ava Ocean's patented technology, will be a key aspect of the initiative.

Anastassiou explains, "The lack of effective and gentle harvesting systems has been a challenge. With millions of these sea urchins present, including the very small ones, almost all need to be harvested to provide the necessary foundation for kelp forests to recover."

Beyond simply removing sea urchins, the Ocean Green project aims to create commercially valuable products from these otherwise overlooked creatures. Anastassiou adds, "We aim not only to efficiently remove sea urchins but also to develop products from them that can be traded, establishing a sustainable, circular value chain."

With effective control over these often called "zombie" sea urchins, the project envisions the restoration of kelp forests along the coast, acting as vital nurseries for juvenile fish and other seafood, carbon storage, nitrogen recycling, and erosion protection.

Promoting community engagement

In addition to its environmental objectives, the Ocean Green project strives to create awareness and engagement within the local community, involving businesses, schools, and tourism in Tromsø. Wild Lab Projects, based in Tromsø, will play a crucial role in this novel aspect of the initiative.

Delphin Ruché, leader of Wild Lab Projects, emphasizes, "We aim to ensure that people enjoying the Northern Norwegian coast, whether as visitors or residents, can actively participate in the project and gain insights into the importance of these often overlooked natural areas for biodiversity and marine life."