by The Scuba Doctor — April 2021
Last updated: 2 May 2021
Sea Urchins are fast becoming a pest in many areas of Port Phillip, plus elsewhere in Victoria. You could help by removing them and eating them, especially from urchin barrens where the population growth of Sea Urchins has gone unchecked, causing destructive grazing of kelp forests and other marine habitat.
Commonly known as "Uni" at the sushi bar, the soft edible gonads inside the Sea Urchin, also called "Roe" or "Kina", is served raw as sashimi or in sushi, with soy sauce and wasabiis in Japan. Sea Urchin are a culinary delicacy in many parts of the world, including Mediterranean, Chilean, and Maori (known as Kina) cuisines. Australian first nations Aboriginal people are also known to eat Sea Urchins.
So, you can get out and catch some Sea Urchin, help to protect the marine environment, plus have a super fresh, healthy feed. But there are rules to follow...
You need a current Victorian Recreational Fishing. This can be obtained from Fisheries Victoria either online now (cheapest way), or from Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) offices and selected recreational fishing licence outlets throughout Victoria, including most retail fishing tackle stores. We suggest you save a copy of your licence on your smart phone once purchased. Some people laminate a hard copy and carry it with them. For full details, see Fishing Licence.
There is no minimum legal size in Victoria, however there is a catch limit of 40 urchins from one or more species. Divers are only be allowed to collect Sea Urchin by hand, so you'll need protective (e.g. Kevlar) dive gloves.
Roe and other soft tissues must not be removed from Sea Urchins in, on or next to Victorian waters. So no feeding them to the fish.
Of course, you can't collect Sea Urchins in Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries.
All animals and plants that live in the intertidal zone are critical parts of the food chain. Removal of invertebrates (animals without backbones such as crabs, snails, shellfish and Sea Urchins) from this zone may seem harmless, but it represents a loss of food for other species.
The intertidal zone in Victoria is defined as the area starting at the maximum high-water mark to a point where the water is 2 metre deep at any time.
You are NOT allowed to collect Sea Urchin in the Port Phillip intertidal zone.
You are allowed to collect Sea Urchin in the intertidal zone of Victoria, other than in Port Phillip.
See Intertidal zone fishing restrictions for more details.
See also Sea Urchins for the current Sea Urchin recreational fishing restrictions.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are acting within the law when catching Sea Urchin.
Whether catching Sea Urchin with a single breath of air, or strapping on a tank and going scuba diving, it's a heap of fun.
Many Snorkellers, Spearfishers and Freedivers develop their skills and breath hold whilst catching Sea Urchin. There are many things that will make catching Sea Urchin easier but the number one thing would have to be being comfortable in the water, and that means being warm. A good two piece 3 mm or 5 mm wetsuit with a hood is the ideal. Scuba divers tend to be in the water for longer and prefer a one or two-piece 7 mm wetsuit plus a hood.
You'll need a sturdy pair of gloves to protect your hands from scratches and pricks from the Sea Urchin spines. Some Kevlar coated gloves work well, as do ones with Dyneema palms. The main thing is for the gloves to provide protection and to provide grip. Ideally you need a glove that is not too thick.
Apollo K2 Kevlar Commercial Dive Gloves - 3.0mm
RRP: $89, Our Price: $79, You Save $10 (11%).
Ideal for Sea Urchin hunters, the Kevlar lining on the palms, fingers and back of finger tips ensures protection from the Sea Urchin, plus rugged durability under the most demanding use. Also great when catching crays, abalone and scallops.
Cressi Defender Anti-Cut Dive Gloves - 2mm
RRP: $40, Our Price: $29, You Save $11 (28%).
This glove is great for those hunting for Sea Urchin, crays, abalone and scallops. The Cressi Defender Gloves are European Certified in accordance with EN 388 and EN 420 regulations as a LEVEL 5 cut resistant glove.
A good dive knife is an essential item for prying your Sea Urchin loose. It's also a safety tool when diving around rock groins covered in fishing line.
Ocean Design Apollo SQR 420 SS GB Dive Knife - Chisel Tip
RRP: $79, Our Price: $70, You Save $9 (11%).
Scuba divers prefer a blunt or chisel tip knife so that they're less likely to damage the Sea Urchin and stick themselves. The neoprene leg harness provides comfort and automatic compensation for wetsuit compression.
Ocean Design Apollo SQR 420 SS GB Dive Knife - Point Tip
Our Price: $79
A popular choice with spearos, plus commercial, military, and rescue divers. The neoprene leg harness provides comfort and automatic compensation for wetsuit compression.
You will need a catch bag in order to carry your Sea Urchin once you have caught them. A self closing catch bag, spring loaded or non returning type, work well and there are plenty to choose from. Don't try to cut corners with cheap and nasty ones. They'll make the job so much harder, plus you'll run the risk of loosing your catch.
Seaka Catch Bag - Spring Loaded - Premium Quality
RRP: $99, Our Price: $89, You Save $10 (10%).
If you want to be able to grab yourself a feed of Sea Urchin, scallops, abalone or a crayfish, then you'll need a good catch bag. This is our favourite because it's simply the best catch bag available, made in New Zealand from high-quality components. Frequently copied by others, but never bettered.
We have a good range of other catch bag solutions as well.
We recommend a low volume mask with a black silicone skirt. The black skirt stops light entering and reflecting off the inside of your mask, thus enabling you to see better.
Cressi Calibro Mask
RRP: $139, Our Price: $119, You Save $20 (14%).
This mask is popular among spearfishers, freedivers and scuba divers for its ultra-low profile and extremely low volume. It has inclined and inverted tear-drop lenses for improving downward visibility. It features the new Cressi patented FOG STOP system.
Cressi Nano Black Mask
RRP: $139, Our Price: $125, You Save $14 (10%).
This 85 cc ultra low volume mask is brilliant for Crayfish hunting. It's extremely hydrodynamic and compact shape helps you cut through the water and aids movements in small spaces.
It needs to be sturdy to cope with the punishment metered out while Sea Urchin hunting.
You will be surprised how many more Sea Urchin you will see with this powerful dive torch. We prefer to use LED lights which produce a white, more natural light environment. Given you may also wish to use your dive light for crayfish hunting, you'll find an unnatural light can have a very adverse effect on your Crayfish as they will generally rear back into their hole making it significantly harder, if not impossible, to catch them.
Tektite Expedition Star Dive Light - 500LM
RRP: $136, Our Price: $119, You Save $17 (13%).
This underwater diving torch is becoming a favourite of local Sea Urchin and cray hunters. Military issue tough, as used by US/NATO forces. Tough and rugged, with a 500 lumen, 15 degree medium beam, and super long 15 plus hours of battery life. Bright enough to light up Sea Urchin barrens and cray nooks during the day, but not too bright so as not to scare the Crayfish.
A good dive float with Alpha dive flag tells everyone on the surface where you are. And it's always nice to let the jet skies and boaties know were you are. When scuba diving with a dive buddy, a proper line setup back to the dive float also helps the two of you stay in good contact.
Ocean Hunter Inflatable Torpedo Float w Line & Alpha Flag (Ylw)
RRP: $49, Our Price: $46.50, You Save $2.50 (5%).
This is great for a scuba diving or snorkelling surface marker, or as a surface platform for spearfishing and free diving. It will glide effortlessly through the water and allow you to easily tow it behind you without feeling like you're pulling a truck.
If free diving, it's all about maximising your breath hold, reducing anxiety and increasing bottom time. Stability whilst on the bottom is crucial if there is any sort of swell about. Having the correct weight on your weight belt is essential, you need to be positively buoyant on the surface but it needs to be easy to glide to the bottom.
You'll need a good pair of long blade, full foot, closed heel fins.
Cressi Reaction Pro Full Foot Fins
RRP: $109, Our Price: $99, You Save $10 (9%).
These fins have been designed not just for and spearfishing and freediving, but also for snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving. They will surprise you with their fantastic performance.
Cressi Gara Modular Full Foot Fins
RRP: $199, Our Price: $179, You Save $20 (10%).
These fins are a perfect choice for deep freediving and spearfishing. The modular design means you can interchange foot pockets and different stiffness fin blades.
To keep your feet warm in our temperate waters, you'll need a pair of neoprene socks as well.
Ocean Hunter Fin Socks - 3mm
RRP: $33, Our Price: $31, You Save $2 (6%).
The printed rubber strong soles of these socks have an anti-slip layer to avoid skidding or slipping on wet rocks as you get to he water's edge, or the boat's deck.
A good weight belt is essential.
Cressi Elastic Marseilles Rubber Weight Belt - 140cm
RRP: $69, Our Price: $65.50, You Save $3.50 (5%).
This freediving/spearfishing weight belt is comfortable and streamlined. The high elastic properties of the belt will contract and compress with your body and wetsuit during your descent and expand and stretch as your body and wetsuit expand during ascent. This keeps your weight belt properly positioned around your hips. The heavy-duty 300 series stainless buckle is easy to use and lasts a lifetime.
Also consider using a weight vest to transfer some weight up higher on your body to make transitions easier.
Cressi Weight Vest
RRP: $90, Our Price: $81, You Save $9 (10%).
Just the thing to sort out your weighting and ensure a comfortable dive. Incorporating a weight vest into your spearfishing/freediving setup is a great way to add weight directly on top of the most buoyant part of your body when you freedive — your lungs.
To stay warm, a good two-piece 3 mm or 5 mm spearfishing or freediving wetsuit, plus a hood, is the ideal.
This 2-piece 5 mm spear and freediving wetsuit is just what you want. It's comprised of a Hooded Jacket and a High Top Pants. All Suit Seams are Glued and Sewn for Strength and Durability.
If you don't already own your own gear, speak to your reputable dive shop like The Scuba Doctor. We can assist you with purchasing or hiring equipment.
To stay warm, a good semi-dry, 7 mm scuba diving wetsuit, plus a hood, is the ideal.
Probe iDry 7mm Quick-Dry Semi-Dry Suit (Back Zip)
RRP: $700, Our Price: $630, You Save $70 (10%).
The fleece inner lining is super warm, and makes the suit super easy to slide on over your skin. There are no zips on the ankles and wrists, nothing to go wrong. The ultra stretch dive neoprene delivers unrestricted freedom of movement in all directions.
Probe iDry Quick-Dry Hood - 3mm (Unisex)
RRP: $60, Our Price: $54, You Save $6 (10%).
The world's fastest drying dive hood — dries in minutes! The gripper print on the back of the head helps to keep your mask strap in place. The Quick-Dry fleece inner lining makes it easier to don and doff.
Probe iDry Quick-Dry Hood - 5mm (Unisex)
RRP: $65, Our Price: $58, You Save $7 (11%).
This is the 5mm version of the 3mm one above. We love them both for the same features and reasons. It's just how much you feel the cold, and what the water temperature currently is, that dictates your choice between the 3 mm and 5 mm versions.
Hookah diving for Sea Urchin is also popular.
There are two main local species of Sea Urchin in Victoria:
Sea Urchin typically range in size from 3 to 10 cm (1 to 4 inch). They have a rigid, usually spherical body bearing moveable spines. The name "urchin" is an old word for hedgehog, which Sea Urchins resemble. They are often called sea hedgehogs.
Sea Urchin develop five-fold symmetry as they mature. They have roughly spherical bodies with five equally sized parts radiating out from their central axes. The mouth is at the base of the animal and the anus at the top. The lower surface is described as "oral" and the upper surface as "aboral".
Sea Urchin eat using a structure called Aristotle's lantern. This is because Aristotle wrote a book entitled, "The History of Animals". In the book, he describes the mouth a Sea Urchin looking much like a lantern. It's made up of five hard plates that come together like a beak. They use their beak-like mouth to scrape rocks clean of algae. This scraping can wear down the plates, so Sea Urchin teeth grow to replace worn-down ones.
There's something that people might not realise when they're eating Sea Urchin Uni/Roe/Kina is that they're eating reproductive organs. It's like the caviar. Uni is the Japanese name for the edible part of the Sea Urchin, not the Sea Urchin itself. In other words, Uni refers to the edible orange lobes. These lobes are actually the animal's gonads, which produce roe/eggs. Each Sea Urchin contains five lobes.
Uni is actually very healthy. A 100 gram portion of Sea Urchins contains 172 calories and very little fat. The fat is also almost all unsaturated fat. For every 100 gram of Uni, there are only 1.75 gram of polyunsaturated fat. We all know that eating polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats can help lower your cholesterol levels. Sea Urchins also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of an abnormal heart beat.
In the past, it was believed that Sea Urchins were powerful aphrodisiacs. Scientists have discovered that Uni contains an "euphoria-causing chemical" ingredient (albeit in very small quantities) similar to what you find in marijuana. Some think this is why Uni tastes so good.
Sea Urchins are a favourite food of Southern Rock Lobster (aka Crayfish), Giant Spider Crabs, Decorator Crabs, Molluscs, Starfish, and other marine critters. All these animals carry particular adaptations (teeth, pincers, claws) and a strength that allow them to overcome the excellent protective features of Sea Urchins. Left unchecked by predators, Sea Urchins devastate their environments, creating what biologists call an urchin barren, devoid of macroalgae and associated fauna.
The Sea Urchin can form extensive urchin barrens where the population growth of Sea Urchins has gone unchecked, causing destructive grazing. It's these barren we recommend you target.
When the Sea Urchins are removed from the barrens, seaweeds and kelp can recolonise the area, thus improving the marine habitat.
Sea Urchins are largely nocturnal and they will hide in rock crevices during the day.
See Melbourne Sea Urchin Dives for places where you can snorkel and dive to catch Sea Urchin near Melbourne, Victoria.
You should be comfortable with basic snorkelling, free diving and/or scuba diving before attempting to dive for Sea Urchin. Where you hunt for Sea Urchins needs to be a very careful choice. It's important to take note of weather conditions and only dive if appropriate.
Once you are in the water, you need to cover as much territory as possible whilst trying to keep your heart rate and breathing to a relaxed level as you try to locate a Sea Urchin barren. To help reduce the damage being done by Sea Urchin, please try to target the area on and near Sea Urchin barrens.
When you find a Sea Urchin barren, get your catch bag ready. Sometimes it is best to give your catch bag to your dive buddy.
You should never cut the Sea Urchin. Just get underneath of its body with your dive knife and pry it off whatever it's holding on to. Some Sea Urchin hold on tightly and can be difficult to pry off. Others don't. If you're working a Sea Urchin barren where there are plenty of them, rather than fight and risk damaging a difficult Sea Urchin, simply move on to another one. It's not worth your energy and it's not worth damaging an animal you're not going to eat.
Once it's free, carefully grab it and then put it in your catch bag. When you have your Sea Urchin catch limit of 40, you're done.
Always Dive With a Mate, and Stay Together. In the thrill of the hunt it is common for scuba divers to become separated as their focus is elsewhere. For the safety of both of you, it is essential to maintain good buddy contact.
Use a Dive Flag. It tells everyone on the surface where you are and helps to keep you safe.
Don't Take Unnecessary Risks. Diving can be dangerous and the ocean is very unforgiving. Know your own ability and don't get carried away. A simple cramp or fatigue can become life threatening if a long way from shore or the boat.
Watch Out For Danger. This might be other vessels, like boats and jet skis, or even sharks and rays.
Be Careful of the Terrain. Bumping your head on overhanging ledges can be very problematic, so wear a hood.
Once you catch your first feed of Sea Urchin you'll be hooked on a great sport that keeps you fit and feeds your friends and family.
Be Prepared. Be Safe. Happy Hunting!
Roe and other soft tissues must not be removed from Sea Urchins in, on or next to Victorian waters. So you'll need to transport Sea Urchin home to process them and the best results are achieved if you keep the Sea Urchins alive while transporting them. The best way to do this is to transfer them from your catch bag into eskys (ice boxes) of seawater (brine) such that you achieve full immersion.
Do your best to keep everything cool, e.g. 5°C to 15°C. Gel ice packs in the seawater can help with this. Using an insulated container, like a medium to large sized esky, with about 20 Sea Urchin per container covered in seawater, is a good way to go.
Minimise exposure to excess high temperatures, direct sunlight, wind and prolonged air exposure. It's even better if you have a recirculation seawater system. A battery powered bait bucket air pump can achieve this for you. Sea Urchin can last up to 14 days in a chilled, aerated seawater system.
If you transport Sea Urchin while exposed in the air they may spawn which will have had an impact on roe quantity and quality. Spawning resulting from stress events such as dry transportation should be avoided.
Sea urchins have a powerful defence mechanism. Their stings can be extremely painful and may cause extensive damage to the skin, tissue, and even bone. The calcium-filled brittle spines that a sting can leave behind can be difficult to remove from the skin. Prompt extraction of them, however, can prevent further injury.
Sea Urchin Sting Facts:
Sea urchin injuries are puncture wounds inflicted by the animal's brittle, fragile spines. Most Sea Urchin stings are like to stepping on a large splinter or other sharp objects. The injury can be painful and may cause an infection but rarely does lasting harm. However, some Sea Urchins are more dangerous than others. A few species have venomous spines with potent and potentially deadly effects.
Some Sea Urchins "bite", and a few have venomous bites. Unlike a Sea Urchin sting, a bite does not leave spines behind.
Sea urchins may also trigger allergic reactions that can range from mild to potentially deadly.
It's vital appropriately protective dive gloves are worn when catching Sea Urchin.
First aid for Sea Urchin stings requires prompt removal of the spiky spines. Removing Sea Urchin spines with tweezers can cause them to break and splinter at the skin's surface. The spines might appear to be gone but can remain in the deeper layers of skin. Instead, it is advisable to soak the affected area in vinegar. Vinegar can help dissolve the spines.
The spines are gone when they are no longer protruding from the skin, and there are no black or grey dots remaining at the surface of the skin. If the first vinegar soak does not remove the spines, you should continue applying vinegar compresses several times a day until the spines are gone.
A warm compresses can help with pain and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen, can also relieve pain. (Ibuprofen is an everyday painkiller for a range of aches and pains, including back pain, period pain, toothache.)
In the days following the injury, you should keep the wound clean and apply a triple antibiotic ointment. If the wound is red or itchy, topical hydrocortisone cream may help.
When a Sea Urchin spine breaks off under the skin, it can migrate elsewhere in the body. If this happens, it may require surgical removal. If it is possible to feel a spine under the skin, if a spine is visible underneath the skin, or the spine has broken off, you should contact a doctor.
An allergic reaction to a Sea Urchin sting can occasionally be life threatening. People who have a known allergy to Sea Urchins should immediately go to a hospital emergency room if they are stung.
If someone is stung, or suspects they have been stung, by a venomous Sea Urchin, it is a medical emergency. They should go to a hospital emergency room or call 000.
Google is your friend when it comes to tips on how to prepare your fresh Sea Urchin for eating, plus recipes. Use the keywords "Sea Urchin", "Uni", "Roe", and "Kina" in your search.
There is nothing quite like the taste of Sea Urchin. Some describe the Roe/Uni/Kina as packed with the sum of all the flavours of the sea. It has a rich and sweet taste. Others would say that it's like a seafood version of foie gras that melts in your mouth. Of course, there are also other people who dislike the taste of Roe/Uni/Kina. It's an acquired taste and you will either love it or hate it.
Considered one of the best way of packaging Uni for the winter months. After the Sea Urchin is cracked open and cleaned, the Uni is returned to saltwater (Ensui). This method retains the most natural taste and texture of Uni, in brine. This product is purely natural.
When you want a feed, simply drain the salt water from your Sea Urchin Ensui Uni and eat as it is. Of course it can also be consumed in: sushi, chirashi, soup or as a creamy pasta for dinner.
The taste of Sea Urchin Ensui Uni when packaged this way is as if you were on the shoreline, freshly cracking the Sea Urchin Uni open right there and eating it. The freshness and the creamy sweetness of the Sea Urchin Uni will melt away in your mouth.
You can enjoy Sea Urchins without eating them. If you don't like the taste of Uni? No problem. A Sea Urchin's spines cover up a beautiful shell. After the animal dies and decomposes, it leaves behind a delicate casing. These shells lay peacefully and untouched on the sea's bottom.
You can take your Sea Urchin catch home and convert them into delicate shell gifts for family and friends. Google is your friend when it comes to finding information on how to clean and preserve Sea Urchin shells.