This photo shows a beautiful silver fish eating the Green Sea Urchin. The Green Sea Urchin is being endangered by over-fishing. However, it is effecting more than just them. It effects the whole food chain. Sea stars, crabs, large fish, mammals, birds, and of course humans all eat the Green Sea Urchin. This makes the ecosystem change, if the Green Sea Urchin keeps decreasing so rapidly than other animals food source also decreases.
The Green Sea Urchins usually eat either seaweed or kelp, but they can eat other organisms. However, if the populations keep plummeting like they have been then there will be a massive population of seaweed and kelp. This is dangerous to the Green Sea Urchin, because if the populations of their food source gets to massive it will start to entangle the Green Sea Urchins. This will make it almost impossible for these tiny urchins to reach their feeding grounds. Which will make them die.
In this graph it has 3 different locations listed. The first one being Torch Bay, in Torch bay there are no otters in that area. In Deer Harbor, Sea Otters have been present for 2 years, and lastly in Surge Bay, Sea Otters have been present for 10 years. The longer the Sea Otters stay in that area the more the Green Sea Urchin population decreases and the more the Kelp population increases. The unbalance of the food chain is greatly effecting the ecosystem. Without a steady amount of Green Sea Urchins there will be more Kelp forests in our oceans.
This infographic shows the different ecosystems there are due to over-fishing Green Sea Urchins. The Green Sea Urchins graze on algae (also know as Kelp), this grazing maintains a balanced ecosystem and no Kelp forests. If Green Sea Urchins are over-fished then there is a huge Kelp forest where the Green Sea Urchins predators hide to eat them. These two images show the drastic differences between a Kelp or an Urchin ecosystem, but they are both wrong. We need to find a stable balance in between these two images to have a healthy and stable amount of Kelp and Green Sea Urchins.
The Atlantic Sea Urchin is one type of urchins that are over-fished for "Uni". Uni is a highly coveted delicacies used in Japan. The urchins uni is mostly found in traditional sushi and sashimi dishes. In 1933, over 41 million pounds of urchins were landed, so Maine created regulations to steady out the population. Maine has created laws that tell fisherman that they can no longer go fishing during the night or weekends for urchins and they can only keep urchins that are 2 to 3 inches in diameter long. In order to catch Green Sea Urchin many fisherman use the technique of dragging. Dragging as we learned in past units is very harmful to the ecosystem.
In this website it has stated that Sea Stars are beginning to die out from diseases. Sea Stars are one of the major predators that eat Sea Urchins. In the northern shores of California Sea Stars have been attacked by disease so all the Sea Urchins have came out of hiding and the sea floor is covered in them. However, in the south part of the California shore Sea Urchins are losing their spines and becoming bald. This means that there is a wide spread of disease attacking the Sea Urchins in the south. There is a major unbalance of Sea Urchin populations off the coast of California.
SUMMARY: The Green Sea Urchin aren't the only ones in danger. Fisherman are also in danger. On an average fisherman for Green Sea Urchins would make about $6,000 a week and now they don't even make 1/3 of that. They believe it is because the urchin is over-fished. However, from 1997 to last year there were 50 new licenses to fish for Green Sea Urchins. This is dangerous to both the business fishing for these urchins and also the urchins themselves. A new problem has surfaced. There has been cases of a stringy kelp that is entangling the urchins and prevents them from reaching their feeding grounds. SUSTAINABILITY: This is not sustainable, with the fisherman increasing and the population of the stringy kelp also increasing the Green Sea Urchin's population is plummeting. This news article talks about how this is not sustainable for people. People will lose their jobs or not make enough to live off of if the urchins disappear. CONNECTIONS: The root cause of this is there are to many people fishing for the Green Sea Urchins and because of this the population is falling. It may not sound like a little urchin can make a huge impact but this does impact both people and the environment. The stringy kelp is not native to that particular area and is thought to be brought there by other ships traveling the world. This is dangerous to the fisherman because they have to untangle the urchins out of the kelp and are at rick of getting a spike in their hand.
SUMMARY: This news article is just one example of why Green Sea Urchins are becoming endangered. It tells a story about a poacher that took 1,500 pounds of Green Sea Urchins out of the ocean and about 15% of the divers catch broke the laws and regulations to help protect these little creatures. This diver will be facing a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Many poachers take Green Sea Urchins because their sex organs (also known as Uni or Roe) sell for $100 per pound to Japanese Sushi bars as a delicacy. SUSTAINABILITY: This is not sustainable at all. Although this poacher was thrown in jail and fined for his actions, the Green Sea Urchins lives were already taken away, even if they threw those creatures back into the water they were already dead and would just sink back into the bottom. This poacher took away some of the predators food sources and could cause an Algae forest (AKA a Kelp forest). CONNECTIONS: When a poacher takes out this much Green Sea Urchins it begins to hurt the predators that feed on them and also will cause an unbalance of the ecosystem causing a massive Kelp forest. Taking out these little creatures illegally is damaging the oceans. Laws and regulations are there to protect endangered animals, but if people are poaching the laws and regulations will not work to fix the Green Sea Urchins population problem.
Scientist have been monitoring Green Sea Urchins from 1996 to 2002 and nearly none of those urchins survived to adulthood. The Department of Marine Resources noticed this issue and decided to divide the fishery lands into two management zones. These zones limit the times they can harvest these creatures and the size they can take them out of the water. However, this is not a permanent plan and scientist are studying to find a plan to create a sustainable population for the Green Sea Urchins. This is because the population for the predators of Green Sea Urchins often fluctuate and this impacts the stress on the Green Sea Urchins.
Atlantic Canadian groups have been studying and trying to begin the business of the Sea Urchin aquaculture. Sea Urchin farming is a new solution several countries are trying to put into action, but a scientist from the University of Maine Marine Scientist is cautioning this process. As this business is very difficult to perfect and is extremely expensive to start. This is a great solution to fixing the over-fishing of Green Sea Urchins, but farming these creatures takes more time to develop than if they were raised in the ocean as a wild creature. Also there has already been 5 different attempts to create a Green Sea Urchin farm, but none of them have been proven to be sustainable.
The Green Sea Urchins eat kelp as their source of food. The kelp around the coast of California grow as tall as a three story house and can grow half a meter in a day. The Sea Urchins strike the kelp at the bottom and eat it upwards. They create an "urchin desert" this is where the Sea Stars attack these deserts to eat these Urchins. This video shows first hand the food chain related to the Sea Urchins. Without the Sea Urchins the food chain will be unbalanced and there will be a gigantic forest of kelp. The Green Sea Urchins may only grow to be 2 inches big but they have a major impact on the ocean's ecosystem.