Uni alert: California’s Underwater Forests Are Being Eaten by the ‘Cockroaches of the Ocean’ (NYT)


‘The divers went to work, scraping purple urchins off the bottom of the cove, hoping it would allow the kelp, which has declined 93 percent in Northern California, to grow back.’

'One of them is Gary Trumper, who has harvested red urchins for more than 30 years. Red urchins, larger than purple urchins, are commercially viable because people eat them — or more specifically, their gonads. The delicacy is better known to sushi aficionados as uni.

But the increasing purple urchin population outcompeted the red urchins for the available kelp. Without kelp, the red urchins starved.’

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That kelp map is heartbreaking. Apparently the purple urchins are edible, just smaller than the red so I assume harder to harvest. Of course that is just treating the symptom rather than the cause but a rather tasty regimen.


So why is it still so expensive? I’d happily do my part if the industry lowers the prices.

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I’ve had good luck buying them cheaply from Pillar Point boats.

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How much per pound for the purple? I vaguely recall the red is about $6/lb, though I could be wrong.

The real issue is abalone. There are plenty of red urchins in CA waters, abalone are thought to be at a tipping point.

Fort Bragg has been having organized volunteer purple urchin harvests.


Or lack of abalone … you can’t remove a predator (sea otter) and think there won’t be ramifications.

The kelp forrest’s are amazing, this is a big deal.

Edit: this is an oversimplified statement - water temp changed etc have a huge impact - but the low otter populations can’t be ignored.

And the abalone season is shut down to who knows when.

I really don’t remember. I think last time we did it, we paid $20 for a large bag of 7 or 8 creatures. Fisherman did not weigh the bag. It was a stinking deal.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen purple urchin for sale anywhere. You may be thinking of red urchin, the much larger species which is used for uni. “Red” urchin, BTW, has a shell that’s nearly black in color.

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They’re on the move. Damn Californians :wink:

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I have dove for red abalone since I was twelve year old. Lived in the fort Bragg area for over twenty years and stopped diving for ab’s about ten years ago. I jumped into a old diving spot that was very productive and I was shocked and heartbroken to see the devastation no kelp no abalone. As I drove up the coast I didn’t see any bull kelp beds. The consensus is we won’t see the red abalone come back in our lifetime. Why you might ask, simple the ocean is warming.

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