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.

Ocean Pollution

Ocean Pollution: Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans

The United Nations Environment Programme – Or ‘UNEP’ as they are often known, is trying to urge people to eliminate microplastics from the world’s oceans, while also aiming to put an end to the excessive and wasteful use of single-use plastics such as bottles, plastic bags and much more. All of which can be extremely harmful to aquatic life, as well as the environment. Many people don’t know this, but around 80% of all litter within the world’s oceans is made up of plastic. Recent reports suggest that as much as 51 trillion microplastic (Yes, trillion) particles currently pollute our oceans – meaning there are around 400-500 times more microplastic particles in the oceans than there are stars in the Milky Way (Estimated at between 150-250 billion).

The oceans make up almost 70% of Earth’s surface, and despite this we’re still a LONG way from understanding our oceans, with 80% of all the world’s oceans, unmapped, unobserved and unexplored. Yet, as a species we’re already managing to destroy them.

Recently, a £20 million project has been launched, aiming to rid the ocean of plastic waste by using a 2,000ft long barrier (Nicknamed ‘Wilson’ or ‘System 001’) to herd the plastic and help remove it. The aim of this project currently is aimed at fighting The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is the largest accumulation of plastic within the world’s oceans and is roughly 3 times the size of France – Located between Hawaii and California. However, this project has recently hit a snag, with plastic actually exiting the system once it is collected, meaning the company have had to go back to the drawing board to create something new and eliminate this problem.

But why should we leave it to others to fix when many of us are just as (if not more) to blame than those currently working to clean it up. Well, we’re not suggesting you spend £20 million in order to try and make a difference (While that would of course help), but with some simple lifestyle changes you could make a bigger difference than you realise. Ditch plastic water bottles, in favour of BPA free, stainless steel drink bottles, such as these, stop using single-use plastic carrier bags, and just generally think about small ways you can make a difference by removing plastic from your life.

Check out this info graphic from Direct Packaging Solutions to see the extent of damage we’ve manage to cause to our oceans.

Guest Contribution, Ocean Pollution: Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans by Declan Darbyshire

Plastic Pollution

Plastic Pollution

The Impact on our oceans and what we can do about it.


Litter in the environment is an ongoing problem, but arguably one of the most pressing environmental challenges that we are faced with today is marine plastic debris. The two common sources marine debris originates from are:

1, land-based, which includes litter from beach-goers, as well as debris that has either blown into the ocean or been washed in with stormwater runoff; and

2, ocean-based, which includes garbage disposed at sea by ships and boats, as well as fishing debris, such as plastic strapping from bait boxes, discarded fishing line or nets, and derelict fishing gear.

While discarded fishing gear takes its toll on the marine environment by entangling marine life and destroying coral reefs, it only comprises an estimated 20% of all marine debris – a staggering 80% of all marine debris stems from land-based sources.

How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?

study published in 2017 estimated between 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans via rivers annually, with peak months being between May and October. The top 20 contributing rivers, which according to the report are mostly found in Asia, contribute around 67% of all plastics flowing into the ocean from rivers around the world.

The demand for plastic has increased dramatically over the last 70 years. According to Plastic Ocean, 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally every year. Half of that plastic is used for disposable items that will only be used once. As a result, more than 8 million tons of discarded plastic ends up in our oceans every single year. Once it is there it doesn’t readily go away. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that the average American or European person typically uses 100 kilograms of plastic every year, most of which consists of packaging, and while it is estimated that Asians currently only use an average of 20 kilograms per person, this is expected to rise due to economic growth in the region.

Plastic Pollution Facts & Figures

10-20 million

Tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, according to a report released by the Worldwatch Institute in 2015.

5.25 trillion

estimated number of plastic particles currently floating around in world’s oceans.

$13 billion

number of estimated losses per year associated with marine plastic debris due to the negative impact on marine ecosystems.

How Does Plastic Breakdown?

One of the characteristics that make plastic so popular for use in a wide range of industries is that it is extremely durable and long-lasting. However, this trait also makes it persist in the environment.

Plastics are photodegradable – meaning that they break down into smaller and smaller pieces when exposed to sunlight. Because the temperature they are exposed to in the ocean is much lower than that on land, the breakdown process takes much longer in the marine environment.

But while plastic debris is slowly breaking down in the ocean, more and more plastic is being tossed or washed into the sea – at a rate far faster than what it is breaking down.

Consequently, there is a LOT of plastic in the ocean – it comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes, and is found floating on the surface, suspended in the water column or littering the ocean floor, and eventually washes up on beaches around the world, wreaking havoc with marine life in all these ecosystems.

According to Greenpeace’s report Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans: “At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales, and fish. The scale of contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris is vast. It is found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar regions to the equator.”

“If we are doubling what we are putting into the ocean on a ten-year basis, there’s no way to keep up… It would be as if you were vacuuming your living room, and I’m standing in the doorway with a bag of dust and a fan. You can constantly keep vacuuming, but you could never catch up.”

– Chris Wilcox, an ecologist at CSIRO so aptly explains in an interview with National Geographic.

5 Gyres – The Oceans Garbage Patches

Large volumes of this plastic tend to accumulate within five oceanic ‘garbage patches’, also known as 5 gyres, located in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The largest of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which stretches across the Pacific Ocean between Japan and North America, with the greatest concentration of garbage lying in the stretch of ocean between California and Hawaii where scientists estimate concentrations of plastic to be around 480,000 pieces per square kilometre.

Single Use Plastic – the Majority of Marine Waste

Plastics and polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) comprise 90% of all marine debris, with food and beverage containers being one of the most common items found in ocean and coastal surveys. According to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report, if all the plastic bottles collected during the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup were stacked they would have stood 372 times higher than Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa (828 meters high); all the plastic straws collected off beaches around the world would have stood 145 times higher than the One World Trade Center in New York City (541 meters); while all the plastic utensils collected would have stood 82 times higher than the Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers (452 meters), and all the cigarette lighters collected would have stood 10 times higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris (324 meters).



Beach Pollution: Beach Cleanup Findings

012345012Plastic Grocery Bags

01234.0123Plastic Lids

01234Plastic Straws & Stirrers

0123.01234Glass Beverage Bottles

01.012345678Cigarette Butts

01.012345Plastic Beverage Bottles

01234567800Plastic Bottle Caps

0123456700Food Wrappers

What are Microplastics?

These tiny pieces of plastic, which scientists refer to as microplastic, are now recognized as a major threat to wildlife and to human health. Scientific research surveys have revealed that microplastics are widespread throughout the world’s oceans, and are having a negative impact on marine life, as well as the health of humans who rely on seafood as a staple protein source. Polystyrene beads and plastic pellets are not easily digested so tend to accumulate in the digestive tract of marine animals who consume them. This can result in the animal feeling full, causing it to stop feeding, leading to emaciation and ultimately death from starvation, or it can cause an intestinal blockage that can also be fatal. When a predator feeds on a fish that has a gut full of undigested polystyrene or plastic, this is passed on to the predator who in most cases will also have problems digesting it.

The Health Impact on our Wildlife

The below photo shows all of the pieces of plastic that were removed from the stomach of a single north fulmar, a seabird, during a necropsy at the National Wildlife Health Lab. (Photo Credit: Carol Meteyer, USGS). How does this happen?


  1. Plastic packaging is lightweight, so it is easily blown or washed into rivers where it is carried to the sea, or it may blow directly into the sea if not safely stowed by beach users
  2. Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, and because it readily floats it is often mistaken for food by surface feeding animals, including fish and seabirds
  3. Marine turtles ingest plastic bags which they mistake for jellyfish, and small items such as gas lighters or plastic pellets in various stages of decomposition are mistaken for food by seabirds and marine animals
  4. Seabirds have been known to feed these plastic pellets to their chicks, resulting in the death of the chicks, which ultimately can cause population numbers of affected species to decrease if fewer and fewer chicks are being successfully raised

Furthermore, plastics and polystyrene are made up of toxic chemicals, including petroleum, which may be released as the gastric juices try to digest it, and are absorbed into the body tissue. These toxins also leach into the water column as plastics break down, contaminating filter feeding organisms who ingest the water while feeding. But the problems don’t end there. Plastics are known to accumulate persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT that are known to disrupt the endocrine system and affect development, at concentrations of a hundred thousand to a million times greater than naturally found in seawater. These contaminants are stored in the body fat and organs of animals and are passed on to predators that feed on them, becoming more concentrated in the tissues of organisms higher up the food chain.



Long living top predators continue to accumulate more and more toxins in their systems over time. Studies have revealed that marine top predators, such as killer whales and polar bears, are amongst the most contaminated animals on Earth. These contaminants reduce fertility and breeding success, and compromise the affected animal’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to disease and infection.

Potential Solutions

We need to tackle the problem of marine debris head on. It’s not just an issue for environmentally conscious, it is an issue that ultimately affects human health. Man is a top predator that feeds on a variety of ocean fish, shellfish and other marine species. We face the same risks as the killer whale and polar bear. While any plastic or polystyrene pellets that may have been clogging the gut of the fish that is nicely presented on our dinner plate have been long removed, the toxic contaminants originating from that debris remain stored in the flesh we are about to eat. Food for thought indeed.

Eliminating Plastic at Source

Clearly, this is a mammoth problem and one that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. One obvious solution is to switch from plastic and polystyrene packaging to environmentally friendly alternatives, such as compostable plant fiber packaging made from natural materials that readily break down in the environment without causing any harm, and which contain no harmful chemicals. Many cities and countries around the world have implemented stricter legislation with regard to plastic shopping bags, with some banning them outright. Perhaps we need to do the same for plastic bottles, straws, etc. Consumers should be proactive and opt for reusable and/or refillable containers rather than disposable packaging wherever possible. This will not only save suppliers, and by extension shoppers, money, it will also benefit the environment and everything that is dependent on the environment for survival.

Single Use Plastic Alternatives & How You Can Help

Reusable Water Bottle

Avoid bottled water. Buy a decent water filter and a reusable stainless steel bottle or a glass bottle; There are collapsible options for the city dwellers.

Reusable Shopping Bag

Keep reusable shopping bags with you: in your car, work bag, jacket pocket, and next to your front door. They’re cheap and there are foldable/pocket options.

3 Minute Beach Tidy

If you spend time enjoying the beach and the ocean, pay mother nature a thank you. Make it your pre-surf/dive/swim ritual: spend 3 mins picking up trash from the beach.

Slow Down

Stop eating on the go. Slow down and take time to enjoy your food: eat in or take a lunchbox. Reduce your use of disposable cutlery, plates and packaging and recycle where possible.

Say No To Straws

Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. Now imagine how that translates to the rest of the world. If you really love straws, carry a stainless steel one in your bag.

Reusable Coffee Cups

We all love our coffee and tea, but it really takes its toll on our environment. Carry a reusable coffee cup with you. There are plenty of options available, from bamboo to collapsable silicone cups to glass cups.

Plastic Recycling Initiatives

Because it is so tough and durable, plastic can be reused or it can be recycled. Popular musician and environmental advocate, Pharrell Williams, is the co-owner of G-Star RAW, a sustainable clothing brand that recently launched the ‘RAW for the Oceans’ collection that recycles single use plastic containers collected from beaches all over the world into stylish apparel. The ‘RAW for the Oceans’ fashion line has collaborated with Bionic Yarn, another company that Williams is both a partner and Creative Director of, which uses recycled ocean plastics to make sustainable clothing yarn. This creative approach provides a sustainable resource — there is plenty of plastic in the sea — while at the same time tackles the humungous problem of ocean plastics by putting this practically unlimited resource to good use.


Philanthropist, environmental advocate, and entrepreneur, Richard Branson, has proposed that we implement a deposit refund system for plastic bottles. Offering an incentive for users to return plastic bottles for recycling makes absolute sense, especially these are one of the most prolific items found on beaches around the world.



While reducing or eliminating plastic packaging may help to stem the flow of plastics at the source, we still need to take steps to prevent plastic that is already in the environment from flowing into the ocean, and to clean up the vast amount of plastic littering beaches around the world, as well as the plastic currently swirling around ocean gyres.

Beach Cleanups

Every year, the Ocean Conservancy coordinates the International Coastal Cleanup in collaboration with environmental organisations, schools and other community initiatives around the world, encouraging volunteers to take part in local beach cleanups to rid the environment of trash. This can be stepped up at a local level, where individuals, communities and organisations can get more actively involved in cleaning up their local beaches to help keep them free of plastic and other debris.


Right: collecting plastic debris and water samples from Kamilo Beach, South of Big Island Hawaii. Kamilo Beach is approximately 1,500 feet (460 m) long and is located on the remote southeast coast of the Kaʻū District on the island of Hawaii. There are no paved roads to the beach. (Photo Credit: Cesar Harada)

Ocean Cleanup Innovations


Some innovative individuals have proposed other solutions for removing plastic from our oceans, including deploying large floating booms to trap and catch plastic designed by a Dutch entrepreneur when he was still a teenager, and floating sea bins designed by two surfers that can be used to remove plastic from harbours, for example.


While these are all indeed innovative and creative solutions to an ever growing problem, they will in all likelihood not be enough to stem the tide of plastic entering and swirling around our oceans. Nor do they address the problem of microplastics and tiny plastic microbeads that are now having a large impact. A committed multi-pronged approach is urgently needed. We need to take action now.

List of Plastic Pollution Charities

Who else is taking action?

Surfers Against Sewage

This article was co-written by Environmental Communication Consultant, Jenny Griffin BSc (Hons) Degree in Marine Biology, Diploma in Nature Conservation); and Janaya Wilkins, Marine Conservation Enthusiast, and SLO active’s Founder.



CSIRO. Marine debris: Sources, distribution and fate of plastic and other refuse — and its impact on ocean and coastal wildlife.

Eric Dewailly, Albert Nantel, Jean-P. Weber, and Francois Meyer. High levels of PCBs in breast milk of Inuit women from Arctic Quebec. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. (1989) 43:641-646

Greenpeace. Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans

Moore, C.J., Moore, S.L., Leecaster, M.K., and Weisberg, S.B. A Comparison of Plastic and Plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin42, 1297-1300. (2001) DOI:10.1016/S0025-326X(01)00114-X

Ocean Conservancy. International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report.

Viola Pavlova, Jacob Nabe-Nielsen, Rune Dietz, Christian Sonne, Volker Grimm. Allee effect in polar bears: a potential consequence of polychlorinated biphenyl contamination. Proc. R. Soc. B; 30 November 2016; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1883.

Laurent CM Lebreton, Joost van der Zwet, Jan-Willem Damsteeg, Boyan Slat, Anthony Andrady & Julia Reisser. River plastics emissions to the world’s oceans. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 15611 (2017) DOI:10.1038/ncomms15611

Worldwatch Institute. Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags (2015)

Best Beaches Award Cyprus

Best Beaches Award Cyprus – Breaking News Cyprus

Ayia Napa Beaches ranked 1st and 3rd  for Top Beach Destinations for Europe. Best Beaches Award Cyprus awarded by Trip Advisor.

Best Beaches Award Cyprus

Ayia Napa Cyprus beaches are ranked No1 and No3 in the Top 10 Best Beaches Award Cyprus in Europe!

Cyprus beaches are ranked No1 and No3 in the Top 10 Best Beaches in Europe! Ayia Napa Cyprus Ayia Napa Cyprus Interestingly enough, Ayia Napa beaches came 1st on the list, with Protaras beaches is ranked 3rd!

Interestingly enough, Ayia Napa beaches came 1st on the list, with Protaras beaches is ranked 3rd

Best Beaches Award Cyprus

Fig Tree Bay, Protaras

This family favourite, Fig Tree Bay, on the east coast of the island, is one of the most scenic of Cyprus beaches. Best Beaches Award Cyprus, Shallow, turquoise waters and soft golden sands make it perfect for young children. A great place to chill out for the day – there’s even Wi-Fi (if you must).

Swimmers can swim out to the tiny uninhabited island that is in easy reach through shallow waters. History buffs may be intrigued to know that in 2010 an ancient Greek tomb – containing four coffins – was found on the road leading to the beach, thought to have been untouched for thousands of years.

Konnos Bay, Cape Greco
Konnos Bay, Cape Greco

Another one of Cyprus’s Blue Flag beaches (the island actually has an impressive 57 in total), found a mile east of Ayia Napa, Konnos Bay is a pretty, sheltered beach with wonderfully clear waters. Best Beaches Award Cyprus, Close to the national forest and rugged coastline that is Cape Greco, this is a great choice for families with older children – if you get the chance, take a boat tour out to the many sea caves that are found around this stretch of coast.

best beaches award cyprus