Many members have asked me about diving for sea urchins. I moved to Maine from Vermont in 1994 to do it.
It was the best job I ever had.
Since I didn't get to dive this week as I hoped, I thought I would share a few memories of urchin diving. These are digital photos of prints I made during dozens of dives up and down the coast of Maine. I jiggied them a bit.
A small dive operation can drop divers tight in shore. They swim in to a shallow water where the kelp grows thick and harvest urchins that feed off the kelp. The big boats use chase boats
that drop divers in shore, keep an eye on them, then pick up full net-bags that are marked with a bouy. If anyone needs help they are there - usually
If a boat is exploring a new reef or shore, we send out a "spec" diver who collects samples. We learned early on that the best sea urchins came from shallow water with a lot of turbulence.
In the early '90s, there were so many down there it seemed like an infestation. It was just a matter of picking up as many as possible. Sometimes we didn't have enough room on the boat for them all.
After a while, the easy ones were gone and divers had to swim a little further and work a little harder to find them. All this time, there were (are) zillions of the critters in deeper water - their market value, however, is zero, as there is not the same nutritious bounty down deep to feed upon as there are up in the shallows.
Sometimes we found a sea monster...
were the sea monster...
In 1994 there were over 2000 licensed sea urchin divers. The fishery was the 2nd largest seafood product in Maine that year. Ten years later there are 200. They are still diving and finding a few - just not the quantities we found back then, There is competition now from Korea, Russia, Chile and other areas that keep the price low.
It's not the Wild West dealio it used to be. That's good because we lost a few good boys in those days.
This is johnnyd:
I have been your designated foodblog pilot for the last seven days.
Thank you for your time.
Edited by johnnyd, 12 August 2007 - 09:18 PM.