By paying commercial divers to harvest ecologically destructive, overgrazing sea urchins and turning them into premium seafood through aquaculture, urchin populations were reduced near their commercial sites in Kunisaki and Nagato, and the kelp forests began to recover.
Japan Blue Economy Association (JBE), the Japanese state-appointed research institute tasked to establish blue carbon credit standards for the country, validated the science and certified the voluntary blue carbon credit, which can now be sold to buyers interested in offsetting their carbon footprint within Japan.
Voluntary blue carbon credits from wild kelp restoration were first recognized in Japan when JBE published their methodology for quantifying carbon sequestration by kelp in 2022. ENEOS Holdings, Inc., Urchinomics ́ investor in Japan, actively supported and funded the necessary scientific research to quantify the positive ecological impact Urchinomics ́ business generates and estimate how much carbon is sequestered from the restoration of kelp forests. According to JBE, the process to integrate voluntary blue carbon credits into the national carbon credit trading market, or J Credits, will begin in 2023.
Blue carbon is often seen as a higher quality carbon credit, as ocean-based ecosystems like kelp forests contribute not just to carbon sequestration, but to a host of other co-benefits like biodiversity, oxygen production, absorption of excess nitrogen from agricultural runoff, reduced ocean acidification and protection from wave-related erosion. In 2021, voluntary blue carbon credits certified by JBE averaged a sales price of JPY 72,400/t (EUR 500/t), well above all types of carbon credits anywhere around the world, owing primarily to their co-benefits.
Brian Tsuyoshi Takeda, CEO and Founder of Urchinomics, says, ‘we are incredibly proud to finally put points on the board for kelp, and have kelp join mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows as legitimate blue carbon opportunities, at least in Japan’. Takeda hopes that other kelp-supporting countries will look to the Japanese precedent and accelerate their adoption of kelp as a blue carbon opportunity.
Takeda further notes that ‘while it is called blue carbon, make no mistake that the true value in restoring kelp forests is about biodiversity. Kelp forests are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet, and meaningful carbon sequestration only happens when biodiversity is championed at the same time’.
Urchinomics is a pioneering aquaculture venture that aims to turn ecologically destructive sea urchins into high valued seafood products that can be consistently supplied nearly year-round. The Urchinomics Methodology helps restore kelp forests, which in turn supports greater marine biomass, biodiversity, and capacity to sequester atmospheric CO2, all while creating meaningful, full-time employment in rural, coastal communities around the world.