The sea urchin is one of the earliest known forms of life – their fossils date back 450 million years. There are around 1,000 species of sea urchins in the world, 16 of which are present in Norway. The two most common along the Norwegian coast are the red and the green species. They can be found all along the coast from a depth of 2 down to 25 or 50 metres.
There are male and female sea urchins, although it may be hard to tell the difference. They reproduce by releasing their eggs and sperm at the same time directly into the water, usually in late winter or early spring. The larvae swim freely in the ocean until they attach themselves to the substratum and go through a complex metamorphosis to become a symmetrical adult. This process takes several months. Sea urchins live for up to 10 years.
Sea urchin roe is in high demand on the world market and currently there is not a large enough supply. However Norway's commercial use of sea urchins has come a long way through wild catch as well as the creation of two sea urchin hatcheries.
Sea urchin is mostly harvested by divers. The roe is at its best in late autumn and early winter, before the eggs mature.
Sea urchin is sold as following products:
- As whole and alive
- Washed and salted fresh or frozen
- Only the roe
Kelp, seaweed, diatoms and decaying material