Sea urchins are invertebrates related to starfish and sand dollars. They have spiny spherical shells that enclose five segments of bright yellow-orange gonads.
For those who have no idea what they are, they’re actually the part of the sea creature we eat. You may also know them as their Japanese name, uni, since the country accounts for about 80 percent of global consumption.
Obviously, sea urchins live in the sea, where they feed on algae and kelp, and are harvested by divers every single day. Their flavour relies on a variety of factors, such as diet, age, habitat, and species. Even though there are 950 species of sea urchin, only a few of them are commercially harvested. Sea urchins are often identified by colour, which gets confusing since so many of them are shades of red, purple, and green.
Sea Urchin Nutritional InformationSomething very interesting about sea urchins is that one 3.5-ounce sea urchin contains 1.83 grams omega-3 fatty acids, which substantially supports our heart and brain health. Sea urchins are also a great source of zinc and protein, a mineral that helps the immune system and assists healing wounds.
Some Typical Sea Urchin Varieties
The long spined sea urchin has spines longer than half of it's shell diameter. This sea urchin is dark brown/black with a turquoise sheen on the spines and red down their centre. However, it is predominantly black, hence known as the black urchin.
The Centrostephanus rodgersii urchin is located in very large numbers up and down the south east coast of Australia. Its very destructive feeding behaviour is characterised by dense feeding aggregations (or fronts) of large individuals migrating across the substratum at speeds of 1 to 4 m per month, consuming all erect algae and creating barrens where sea urchins are able to live for decades with very little food supply.
The importance of the kelp forest for reproduction and survival of commercially valuable species of fish and crustaceans (abalone and lobster) is the reason why Centrostephanus rodgersii sea urchins are considered a pest up and down the south east coast of Australia.
When the sea urchins are removed from the barrens by our commercial divers, seaweeds rapidly colonise the substratum, thus improving the fish habitat.
In areas that have been commercially harvested for urchin, the kelp forest regenerates in a matter of a year or two. Thus the productivity of the kelp forest is restored by a commercial fishery capable of significantly reducing the Centrostephanus rodgersii sea urchin population.
The Centro sea urchin is harvested by Sea Urchin Harvest in Australia from December through to July.
The short spined sea urchin has shorter, solid spines. They have several colour variations all made up of purple, green and/or white which often vary between the spines and the test (shell).
This species is known as the White urchin.
The short spine sea urchin is the preferred species in many cultures due to its rich sweet creamy flavour, however, the short spine urchin is a rarer species. It is hard work for the divers to source as it doesn't seem to populate as quickly as the Centro sea urchin. The short spine sea urchin hence has a strict quota to assure no overfishing.
The short spine sea urchin is harvested by Sea Urchin Harvest in Australia from August to December.
The red urchin is the premium urchin. It is the most prized urchin not just in Australia, but around the world.
It's a rare urchin and has the strictest of all quota. Each licensed diver can only dive for a small amount each year in NSW. (Heliocidaris tuberculata)
The red urchin is often sold whole, as it has a very attractive heavy red shell, and is often served in the shell. The flavour is is supreme, and truly is a pure luxury to eat. The red urchin is year round.
What Does Sea Urchin Taste Like?
Sea urchins are actually made up of amino acids, sugar, and salt, giving them an interesting salty sweetness. Much like oysters, Sea Urchin Uni tend to taste like where they came from - the ocean - and even the seaweed they feed on. Ironically, male uni actually has a smoother texture than female uni, but all good urchins should have a buttery and heavenly texture - a unique flavour that has been compared to eggs, lobster, and fish roe.
Sea Urchin Harvest sells premium Sea Urchin Uni & Sea Urchin Roe from Australia’s iconic east coast. All of our Uni is caught fresh and delivered fresh to you! If you have any questions about ordering Sea Urchin Uni for your commercial business please get in contact via the Contact Us Page or alternatively call us on 0414 441 136.