Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Short Story

Preserving wild sea urchins through sustainable farming

The Mondego Mar FLAG financed a project to bring some unused saltpans back into use to produce an aquaculture product which is highly coveted by restaurateurs: the sea urchin, also known as ‘Portuguese caviar’.
The sea urchin is a product with a great market value, mostly caught in the natural habitat, which is causing a great environmental impact and pressure on the wild populations. Thanks to the Otimo project, we were able to tackle this challenge using a vision combining both a research and entrepreneurship, making innovation into an important factor for achieving the economic diversification and competitiveness of the coastal area
Tiago Verdelhos, project coordinator and PhD researcher for the University of Coimbra

The OtimO project – optimisation of sea urchin production processes – is developing, testing and disseminating an innovative production model for sea urchins. Sea urchin production is still quite limited due to low productivity, reproduction and growth. It is imperative to develop and validate methods that maximise the profitability of production processes, as well as aquaculture systems that minimise the environmental impacts of this activity.

Thanks to this project, the Marine and Environmental Science Centre of the University of Coimbra was able to install in the MAREFOZ Laboratory (in the Mondego Mar FLAG area), an integrated multitrophic aquaculture pilot system (IMTA) with water recirculation (RAS) under regulated conditions of temperature, lighting and ventilation. In these systems, the waste derived from production is used as a resource for other organisms, which reduce environmental impacts and increase economic returns. These waste by-products can be used as food or exploited by other economic agents, promoting the circular economy.

The project is also committed to ensuring knowledge transfer to related businesses, through innovative production models which promote economic development and environmental sustainability. The final goal of the project is to use R&D and innovation to diversify the local economy, making it more competitive. Following the project, the knowledge created will be exploited by a start-up company – Vértice Cristalino, for the production and commercialisation of sea urchins. Capital costs are kept low since the project and the new business can share the same facilities.


Budget €202 942
EU contribution €172 501
  • EMFF: €172 501
Other public contribution €30 441
  • National: €30 441


Universidade de Coimbra

Contact details

FLAG Contacts

Mr. Antonio José Cruz Dos Santos
+351 231 419 550
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