Markets for Sea Urchins: A Review of Global Supply and Markets: Seafood Market and Market Overview
Global supply of sea urchins has decreased in recent years due to declining catches, or from about 120 thousand tons in 1995 to the current average annual catch of about 75 thousand tons. Catches from major fishing nations such as Japan, Chile, the United States and partly Canada have declined. Russia and Peru are fishing more than they did in 1995, but no new major player has entered the market. The market for sea urchins is very traditional as Japan consumes about 80-90% of the total world catch. Some countries that fish for sea urchins, especially in Chile, New Zealand and the Philippines, have a domestic tradition of consumption. In Europe, the use of sea urchins is also traditional, especially in the Mediterranean countries Italy, France and Spain. Due to growing migration within Europe, for example, there are groups of people who know sea urchins in many countries, so there may be small local markets in various countries, but sea urchins are also considered both unusual and exciting. There is probably a need in the Japanese market for good sea urchins at the right price, especially given that there is less supply in the market. There may therefore be opportunities for new entrants to the market, for example from the NPA (Northern Periphery and Arctic areas), provided that they find an efficient transport route to Japan and manage to ensure a stable supply of sea urchins of the right quality. However, it must be borne in mind that the return price will not be as high as in the European market (France), where transport costs to Japan are high, prices are lower for imported products compared to domestic ones and processing costs for sea urchins must be assumed for sale. For countries such as Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and Norway, the most obvious option is to look at the French market. French fishing is now small compared to landings in the period 1970-1980 and the supply of sea urchins from other countries, such as Spain, is small. In recent years, Iceland has successfully exported sea urchins to France and is now the largest supplier on the market. The market in France, on the other hand, is small or estimated at 350-450 tonnes of sea urchins on an annual basis. There may be a need for more quantities of sea urchins on the market at the right price as the market was larger in previous years or about 1,000 tonnes. Italy can also be an option, but care must be taken as a large proportion of sea urchins on the Italian market are from illegal or unauthorized fishing. There may also be opportunities for the sale of sea urchins to the local high-quality restaurant market in Europe, for example in Scandinavia, Germany and England. Although the market pays well, it is equally difficult when it comes to constant demand while the sea urchins are of the right quality during the season.
Worldwide the supply of sea urchins has diminished in the last few years, from the peak landings of about 120 thousand tonnes in 1995 to the current levels of about 75 thousand tonnes. The traditional harvesters such as Japan, Chile, US and to a lesser level, Canada, have all experienced reduced catches. Russia and Peru are supplying larger quantities to the global market than they did in 1995, but no new major entrants have emerged in the last few years. The market for sea urchins is very traditional with Japan consuming about 80- 90% of the total current global supply. There is a domestic market in many sea urchins harvesting countries, especially in Chile, New Zealand and the Philippines. In Europe, the market is also traditional and is mainly in the Mediterranean countries, Italy, France and Spain. Sea urchins seem to be novel and trendy and due to growing ethnic populations, small niche markets may exist in various countries, including those in Europe. There is likely an unmet demand on the Japanese market for good quality sea urchin products at the appropriate price, particularly with less current supply to the market. This may indicate options for a new entrant eg from the Northern Periphery and Arctic areas, if a logistic route from harvest to market can be economically established and high consistent quality product supplied. However, the value of this product will never be as high as in the European (French) market. This is due to the logistics of getting the product to Japan, the lower value placed on any imported product in this market and the need to add processing costs to product prior to selling in the market. For the NPA countries Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and Norway, supplying to markets such as France is the obvious choice; the production in France is low compared to the relatively high landings in the 1970s and 1980s and supply from other countries eg Spain appears small. Iceland has in the past years successfully exported green sea urchins to the French market and is currently the main supplier to the market. The overall French market appears however to be small, or estimated as 350-450 tonnes of whole sea urchins based on harvest and import figures. There may be an unmet demand on the market, assuming an appropriate selling price, as there are indications that the supply to the market has been about 1,000 tonnes in the recent past. There may be options to supply to Italy as well but care must be taken in export as a large part of the current supply in Italy may be from illegal or unlicensed fisheries. There may also be options to supply the apparent emerging high end restaurant niche market in various European countries such as in Scandinavia, Germany and England. Although this market may be lucrative, it is at the same time quite unpredictable when it comes to regular supply during harvest.