Sea Urchin, A Staple Of Sushi, Is In Danger Of Disappearing

There's nothing particularly inviting about the sea urchin (sometimes also called the sea hedgehog) from the outside, but the dark and slow-moving creature is an important part of the cuisine of Japan, China, Chile, and the Mediterranean regions to name a few. Sea urchin roe, or uni, is a delicacy in high demand in Japan and amongst haute cuisine chefs around the world.

The urchin fishing industry, centered in Nova Scotia, now faces the decline of what was once a $2.5 million industry, according to reporting from The Atlantic.

The sea urchin population of the Atlantic Ocean faces an invasive species and the problem of overfishing because of its popularity has put the small, spiky creature in danger of being gone for good.

In the last two decades, the "Green Gold Rush" took over Nova Scotia, Maine, Boston, and other "urchin hubs."

In the U.S., the urchin decline has been attributed to overfishing, but in Nova Scotia, the urchin faces an invasive species of kelp that entangles sea urchins and prevents them from reaching their food sources. Fishermen have to tear the urchins out of the kelp, thus risking getting hurt by a poisonous spike.

Tye Zinck, a sea urchin fisherman for several decades, noted that he has never seen the kelp before this season, and that the end of the industry in Nova Scotia is drawing near.

"The only thing worse than fishing is making up for it," he told The Atlantic. "I'm hoping to get at least one more season out of it."

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy