Tasmania’s Urchin (Dumpling) Baron

Image from Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment

Have you heard the phrase: “the way to the heart is through the stomach”, or some variation of such? It may be a stretch, but I’m going to interpret it as “people care about the things they can eat”, hence why I’m linking you to a video of urchin dumplings up there. You see, urchins run amok are a huge threat to marine ecosystems where in large enough numbers they mow down all vegetation, destroying the habitat and creating an ‘urchin barren’. This is nothing new globally. It is relatively new for Tasmania, Australia where warming waters have brought an influx of invasive long-spined urchins.

So how do you save the ecosystem and protect habitat for native lobsters and abalone? You make urchin harvesting profitable by turning them into something delicious. Urchin roe (eggs) has long been featured in many Asian cuisines, and now Oscar Zheng is introducing it to Australians – in dumplings. Whether or not Oscar’s dumplings are making significant dent in Tasmania’s urchins is up for debate (overall, the urchin fishery landed 190 tons last year), but something is better than nothing, and at the very least it’s raising awareness of the issue. So hats off to this R.A.D. businessman for thinking with his stomach.

Oh, and eating marine invaders is nothing new as I’ve discussed before with regards to lionfish in the Caribbean. I smell a cookbook idea.

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