Kelp Forests are underwater environments recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth (comparable to rainforests). Overfishing and other human activities have created an imbalance in which natural predators are severely underrepresented. This predator imbalance has resulted in the explosion of sea urchin populations and the loss of more than 3.3M acres of kelp forests on six continents. The reduction in kelp forests adversely impacts ocean acidity, food security, biodiversity, coastal erosion and does extensive economic damage to billion dollar industries that rely on ocean resources.
Kelp Forest restoration efforts are currently underway by governments, NGOs, and industry stakeholders around the world. The current “state of the art” restoration method uses “gentlemen” divers as predator alternatives. These divers remove excess sea urchins by hand. This manual method is dangerous, inefficient, costly, and cannot scale because humans are not designed to operate underwater. In California, one of our beta partners is using divers to restore and maintain persistent urchin barrens along the Palos Verdes Peninsula at the cost of $370k per acre. There are more than 4,000 acres in need of restoration in this area along. This method of recovery is not economically viable and scalable. Marauder robotics offers a high tech solution that significantly impacts the cost, safety, and efficiency of future ocean restoration and underwater monitoring efforts.
Our mission is to build and deploy cost-effective predator alternatives to suppress sea urchin populations to sustainable levels while providing continuous environmental monitoring in the restoration area. Marauder Robotics’ ability to develop underwater technologies to restore and maintain ocean ecosystems is meaningful to the ecological, policy, and industry stakeholders that we approached during our discovery phase, including our beta partners. We plan to launch with an artificially intelligent and tunable autonomous marine predator that hunt sea urchins while providing near real-time biodiversity and environmental condition maps of the restoration zones.
Marauder Robotics will change the world by addressing several major ocean/global issues in need of a scalable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solutions. By actively managing sea urchin populations that are inversely impacting critical kelp forest fisheries allow these ecosystems to thrive. Healthy and thriving kelp forests have a positive effect on fish, mammals, and crustaceans, and people. Restoring kelp forests has the benefit of mitigating ocean acidity by sequestering carbonates in plant biomass which generates clean oxygen in return. Our beta partners have shown that restoring macrocystis kelp forests raised the pH in the restoration zone by 0.2. Also, our efforts to expand kelp forests to historical levels has a benefit of increasing seafood species in the restoration zone thus increasing food security and securing a cheap protein source. Finally, expanding a kelp forest’s footprint near coastal communities offer protection from storm surges by absorbing wave energy before reaching land.
In closing, using technology to manage sea urchin populations will allow kelp forests to thrive and expand. Marauder Robotics’ solution is robust and scales globally to address declining ocean health. We are bringing and maintaining balance in our oceans.