Sea Floor Mapping
Overfishing of predatory species like lobsters, crabs and cod from the worlds oceans has unleashed a population explosion of sea urchins, spiny invertebrates that have decimated some of the world's most productive kelp forests. After destroying a kelp forest and collapsing its food chain, urchins draw down on the energy reserves stored in their roe sacs, and starve until a new food source grows or floats by.
Underwater satellite technology from Plan Blue is able to automatically scan and map the seafloor. It combines hyperspectral and RGB imaging with underwater navigation and artificial intelligence. The technology can be trained to identify and map many things, quickly scanning seafloor areas in high detail (i.e., pixel size mm to cm), and reducing the time needed to map a detailed seafloor area by up to 50%,
FootPrint Coalition is working with Mobile Sea Otters to conduct ecosystem monitoring around Urchinomics ranching sites to establish a baseline of urchin barren severity in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. We are supporting the trial and testing of the most effective underwater satellites, and training researchers in their use, to help drive down monitoring costs.
Here's Why We're On The Case:
Ecosystem balance is necessary for life on Earth -- when one species starts getting out of control (ahem, sometimes humans!), reining it in really helps other species survive.
Kelp are large brown algae that live in cool, relatively shallow waters close to the shore. They grow in dense groupings much like a forest on land. These underwater towers of kelp provide food and shelter for thousands of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammal species. (NOAA)
An urchin barren is an area of the shallow part of the ocean where the population growth of sea urchins has gone unchecked, causing destructive grazing of kelp forests. Sea urchins eat kelp holdfasts. This can be caused by a lack of sea otters or other predators in the area.
Urchinomics is a new company that engages fishers, ecologists and scientists (like Mobile Sea Otters) to identify and remove empty, unproductive urchins that hinder kelp forests from recovering. The urchins are then re-homed into ranching facilities, where they are fed nutritionally-balanced, plant-based feed. In 6-10 weeks they are ready to be delivered to premium restaurants globally.
Mobile Sea Otters
Our partner, the nonprofit Mobile Sea Otters, aims to restore and conserve the beautiful and fertile Japanese seaweed forests, collaborating with many people including companies like Urchinomics, fishermen, and divers, and deploying scientific approaches. MSO believes that tackling seaweed denudation will help conserve healthy marine ecosystems, contribute to the local fishery industry and slow down climate change.