Invertebrates of Interest: Sea Urchin

California's coastal waters are home to a multitude of marine invertebrates (species lacking a bony structure); many of which are important to our state’s sport and commercial fisheries. Sea urchin have been targeted by divers since the 1970s in northern California near Fort Bragg and throughout the southern California Bight centered around Santa Barbara. Red sea urchin are harvested for their gonads, known as “uni,” which are typically available in sushi markets around the world. Purple sea urchin are also harvested for food, but their smaller size makes them less desirable. Visitors can learn more about urchin species identification, biology, habitat, geographic range, fishing methods, and more in the following links. 

NEW Information About Urchin Disaster Funds

On March 18, 2020 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service allocated $3,329,343 in disaster relief assistance to the northern California commercial red sea urchin fishery due to a fishery failure in 2016 and 2017. NOAA also strongly recommends that funds be used to build resilience to buffer against future fishery disasters and strengthen the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the fishery. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in collaboration with the commercial fishery, will develop a spending plan that is based on and consistent with guidance provided by NOAA.

Please email inquiries and comments to: UrchinDisaster@wildlife.ca.gov

References

California Sea Urchin Catch

By Diver and Region

By Fishing Location

By Region and Month

By Diver Age Group

Urchin Marketing Association

Other Urchin Information

Magazine and Newsletter Articles

Purple Sea Urchin with Warty Sea Cucumber and Garibaldi. CDFW Photo by D. Stein
Purple Sea Urchin with Warty Sea Cucumber and Garibaldi. CDFW Photo by D. Stein

Red Sea Urchin. CDFW Photo by D. Stein
Red Sea Urchin. CDFW Photo by D. Stein