What Are Sea Urchins Good For?
THE sea urchins are classic objects of research in different fields of biology, ecology, biodiversity, evolution, aquaculture and conservation. At the same time, they are used as raw material to produce foodstuff, in particular, the product of processing gonads known as “Sea urchin Roe”, and is considered as a prized delicacy in Asian, Mediterranean and Western Hemisphere countries.
The gonads of sea urchins either fresh or in the form of processed food have long been using as luxury foods in Japan. The peoples of the Asian Pacific Region has also long been using it as a remedy for improving general living tone, treatment for a number of diseases and strengthening of the sexual potency of men, especially the middle aged. Although, sea urchin gonad has not yet been used as food in Malaysia, it is reported that in Sabah, an indigenous tribe known as ‘Bajau Laut’ eats sea urchin roe with rice after adding spices.
This delicacy is usually prepared for special events such as Lepa-Lepa Festival, wedding ceremony and other cultural events and is being treated as valuable fishery resources especially by Bajau people. Thus, sea urchins play an important role in providing subsistence income to the local coastal communities.
In Japan, sea urchin is known as “uni”, and its roe can retail for as much as AU$450/kg. Sea urchin fisheries have expanded so greatly in recent years that the natural population in Japan, France, Chile, the northeastern United States, the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and the west coast of North America from California to British Colombia have been overfished to meet the great demand.
World landings of sea urchin, having peaks at 120,000 mt in 1995, are now in the state of about 82,000 mt. These decreasing patterns clearly reflect the overexploitation of most fishery grounds and highlight the need for appropriate conservation policies, stock enhancement, fishery management and aquaculture development to fill the potential gap between demand and supply.
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