A New Zealand project is hoping to improve the value of kina exports - by feeding malnourished kina in land based aquaculture systems.
Kina roe is highly valued in East Asian markets, with demand for the delicacy significantly exceeding global supply - exports are currently valued at between $750 and $920,000 a year.*
EnviroStrat in partnership with Ngati Porou Seafoods and international restorative aquaculture company Urchinomics wants to see if catching wild kina and enhancing them on land is viable.
The $2.2 million project called Kinanomics was being supported with a nearly $1m investment from the government's Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.
Kina will be taken from sites around the country where they had chewed through all the kelp and no longer have anything to eat - they often stay in the same spot and therefore do not grow.
They will then be put into tanks at the pilots headquarters in Wellington and fed a formulated aquafeed - the main ingredient was seaweed.
It will then be tested for quality including taste and physical characteristics to see if it will appeal to high-value overseas markets.
EnviroStrat chief executive Nigel Bradly said early feedback has been positive with kina enhanced in a land-based system producing roe that has improved size, taste and colour compared to kelp fed kina.
"There is no shortage of wild kina to harvest, with areas of New Zealand's kelp forests overtaken by exploding populations of kina which have grazed the kelp down to bare rock, turning the seafloor into barrens.
"By utilising marginal kina for the Kinanomics project, we have the opportunity to develop a commercial incentive to remove these destructive animals from our seafloor, not only creating job opportunities for iwi and coastal communities, but also supporting regeneration of kelp forests."
*The figure in this line was corrected on 10 July, 2023.