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What are Sea Urchins

Sea Urchins?

sea urchin anatomyFriend or Foe? Sea urchins are a group of spiny sea animals that are related to sand dollars and starfish. They can easily be mistaken for shells or rocks because of their hard, round, spiny bodies. They are often found in rocky areas of the sea.

In Cyprus sea urchins can be found in the rocky shelves just underwater the water line. Be careful not to stand on them or you will have a nasty surprise. Predators who fail to heed the warning may end up with spines in their skin.

Sea urchins are primitive animals, but they boast a powerful defence mechanism. Their stings can be extremely painful and may cause extensive damage to the skin, tissue, and even bone.

sea urchin mouthsThe calcium-filled spines that a sting can leave behind can be difficult to remove from the skin. Prompt extraction of them, however, can prevent further injury.

Fast facts on sea urchin stings:

  • Most sea urchin stings are a painful annoyance only.
  • The spines hurt when they enter the skin, as a large splinter would.
  • Anyone with a history of allergic reactions to stings or bites should get medical help after a sea urchin sting.
  • The only way to completely avoid a sea urchin sting is to stay out of the ocean.

sea urchinTreatment of sea urchin stings

  • Vinegar may be used to treat sea urchin stings, as it will help to dissolve the stings trapped in the skin.
  • 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 for a person 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 gray dots remaining at the surface of the skin.
  • If the first vinegar soak does not remove the spines, a person should continue applying vinegar compresses several times a day until the spines are gone.
  • Warm compresses can help with pain and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can also relieve pain.
  • In the days following the injury, a person should keep the wound clean and apply a triple antibiotic cream from the pharmacy. If the wound is red or itchy, topical hydrocortisone cream may help.

Can We Eat Sea Urchins?

eating sea urchinsIn the Mediterranean Sea we see many sea creatures, on is the sea urchin. These echinoderms may not look too appetising given their spiny exteriors, but they are prized around the world for their fishy-flavoured roe and flesh.

Though they are often eaten raw, such as in sushi (typically called “uni”), some people prefer to eat them immediately after they are cut open. (No Thank You!).

Eating raw seafood comes with the risk of contamination with bacteria that can make you sick, so always ask your doctor before adding raw sea urchin to your diet. You can also cook sea urchins and then eat them plain, or include them in other dishes such as pasta with white wine sauce or seafood stew.

Many people eat the meat of sea urchin raw or paired with another type of sushi, it can also be eaten with tasty vinaigrette dressing, but lovers of sea urchins generally prefer them completely unadorned.

The echinoderms are a phylum that exists exclusively in the sea, and cannot be found on land or in fresh water. Echinoderms are characterized by radial symmetry: they have several arms, mostly 5 or even more, radiating from a central body. Echinoderms have tentacle-like structures called tube feet with suction pads. Their body and arms are protected through their spiny skins and spines. There are 5 related classes in the phylum Echinodermata :

  • Sea star or Asteroidea
  • Brittle stars or Ophiuroidea
  • Sea urchins or Echinoidea
  • Sea cucumbers or Holothuroidea
  • Feather stars and sea lilies or Crinoidea

Dont Kill or Catch Sea Urchins

Many people do not know it, but fishing for sea urchins is strictly forbidden by Community and national legislation in Greece and the fines provided are particularly pitiful. So, if you catch the protected species, you will be faced with fines ranging from € 400 to € 3,000.

It is noted that professional fishing and processing of sea urchins is controlled, at least formally, by the Greek authorities.

In taverns and restaurants, the sea urchins come either from illegal professionals or amateur fishermen.

The sea urchin, according to experts, as a sedentary organism (sitting at one point) gathers the dirt of the sea, especially when there is contamination.

Therefore, think about it again when you decide to take sea urchins, and for ecological disaster and for the “bite” fines. Also, please don’t smash these sea creatures and feed them to other fish during your scuba dive. Leave only bubbles and not destruction of our seas and oceans!!

Illegal Fishing of Sea Urchins

Lets not see you in the news headlines like below!!

Sea Shepherd volunteers spotted two poachers illegally fishing for sea urchins inside the Plemmirio Marine Protected Area in Italy this week. They immediately alerted the Coast Guard and the Environmental Police, who seized the fishing equipment and fined the poachers. Unfortunately the sea urchins were already killed and put into little cups, ready to be sold illegally.