Sea Urchin Sex

February 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm (food, ocean, sex) (, , )

My favorite sushi treat is “uni” AKA sea urchin. While most people think the edible inside is called roe, it’s actually the gonads of the male sea urchin. It looks like a textured paste, but feels light and airy to the tongue. The taste… well, it tastes like fresh sea air. Delicious. How many other animals can say that about their gonads??

All along our great California coast divers brave the cold water to deliver millions of dollars worth in uni gold to Japan. During the 1960’s the sea urchin was declared a “pest” because of the tendency to eat entire kelp forests. After that, the market took off, partially helped by a Federal subsidizing program. Over-fishing of sea urchin is now a big problem, leaving me to wonder if I should even be ordering them. red-sea-urchin.jpg

My guilt increases when I look back on 8th grade Career Day. Let me explain. For years as a child I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. It would be so fun to study the beautiful sea life on a boat! My awesome mom made some calls and scored an invitation with a top scientist in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington.

First, we kayaked around the island and almost instantly spotted a whole pod of Orca whales, a mama and baby and nurses. Incredible. This was it! This was what I wanted to do. I was so excited about my possible future calling… until we visited the laboratory. This intelligent, funny scientist spent most of her time in a fluorescent-lit, linoleum-floored underground room studying the reproductive habits of sea urchin. I shit you not.

From that day on my romantic ideas of marine biology (or science careers in general) were completely gone. Studying the gonads of spiny bottom-feeders sounds like a bad joke, not a great career path. I completely forgot about the little sea urchin, until years later at an adventurous sushi dinner.

Now I’m wondering– Should I have gone to school to help the little guys get it on?



  1. Jeff said,

    Just wanted to let you know that Sea Urchins in California are not over fished. They live out to 350 feet and divers maximum depth is 90 feet generally.. I have been a S.U. diver for over 20 years and they just keep crawlng in replenishing themselves in the shallows where we harvest them.
    Also, I would recommend staying off the pill..Down the line there can be serious side effects from taking it for extended periods of time.
    Check out my blog called Unidiva if you want to see some pictures of Sea Urchin Diving at the Channel Islands.



    I appreciate your experience, but I work in a marina and have access to a lot of research, and everything I can get my hands on says that the sea urchin population is decreasing. Exactly what statistics do you have to prove otherwise?

    Regarding your “recommendation” to stay off birth control, I doubt that you are a doctor AND a diver, and you are obviously not a woman. Telling me I shouldn’t be using the Pill because of it’s long term effects is ridiculous. The Pill has been around for decades; I have yet to hear the medical community denounce it. Until then I will continue to be a young, healthy, twenty-something without a baby!



  2. kiwi bird said,

    he he he i posted a comment and im not a smart ass and i dont know a lot so kudos to u

  3. Biographical said,

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Biographical

  4. bob said,

    cool website yo!!

  5. COLIN said,

    hahahahahahahaha im doing a power point on this stupid animal…they taste good tho lolololol jkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkj

  6. Kaela said,

    Well, That was very intersting. I’ve never even really heard of one let alone see one so thank you for being smart enough to share that.

  7. belauan said,

    i luv sea urchins!!!!!!they’re a great delicacy….

  8. Tiffany said,

    im doing a power point on monterey bay and sea urchins are awesome. i didnt really read anything u wrote but i was just searching for pictures for my project. and why would u eat their butts or whatever gonads are? anywas.. yeah cool website thing

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