Sea Urchin - species undifferentiated at market
Forest & Bird (NZ) rank Sea Urchin (Kina) D (AMBER - CONCERNS) in their Best Fish Guide. Australian fisheries are small and highly targeted, with no by-catch, and in NSW have operated under a strict quota system since 2002.
Sea Urchins are related to sea stars. They have a hard exoskeleton and long spines, which protect the soft edible gonads, marketed as 'roe'. Though Sea Urchins exist in many Australian waters, they are only taken in the Southern portion of the country. Small fisheries in NSW, VIC, TAS and SA target the Purple Sea Urchin, which is considered to have the best roe of the Australian species. Urchins are collected by hand divers, minimising negative environmental impacts and resulting in zero bycatch from the fisheries. Bright orange or yellow roe is the best regarded. Most Sea Urchin Roe is exported to Asian markets. Sea Urchins spawn in the warmer months and are best just prior to this time, when the roe is at is largest and best tasting.
Preparation and cooking
Sea Urchin roe is soft, oily and strongly flavoured. It is highly regarded in Japan, as well as Mediterranean countries. The roe deteriorates rapidly, but when very fresh can be eaten raw, needing only a squeeze of lemon juice. It can be used to make sauces for fish, steamed in a custard or tossed at the last minute through pasta.