Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


The Maine green sea urchin fishery has experienced dramatic growth since its inception in 1987. Landings have increased from 1.4 million pounds in 1987 to 41.6 million pounds in 1993 (NMFS, Fisheries Statistics). The reproductive gonads, referred to as roe or 'uni' are shipped fresh from Maine to japan, where the uni is a delicacy item fetching high unit prices on the Japanese fish market. The green sea urchin from Maine, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, is the third highest priced sea urchin product imported in Japan (Anon., 1989). Country-wide, sea urchin fisheries are one of the fastest growing fishing industries (Phu, 1990). Total domestic landings have increased rapidly from approximately 7 million pounds in 1975 to almost 72 million pounds in 1990 (NMFS, Fishery Statistics). An extreme increase in fishing pressure and landings has caused concern about the long term viability of the fishery. The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the agency responsible for managing and regulating marine living resources, began to impose regulations in 1990-91, long after the fishery expanded. Due to the lack of scientific knowledge concerning sea urchin fisheries and the fact that sea urchin fisheries around the world follow a dramatic boom and bust pattern, it is important to begin managing these fisheries at the onset of fishing activity. The rapid increase in catch followed by a dramatic decline in landings indicates that urchins do not do well under unregulated, consistent fishing pressure. Although several years are needed to acquire the necessary biological information on which to base sound management measures, looking at other sea urchin management measures may offer a solution for Maine's emerging sea urchin fishery. Unregulated sea urchin fisheries are inefficient as every unregulated sea urchin fishery shows the same rise and drastic declining trends. This thesis provides an overview of sea urchin fisheries from throughout North America. This overview illustrates a general trend that unregulated sea urchin fisheries tend to follow one of rapid increased followed by a large, swift decline. This suggests that better management procedures need to be developed and implemented which take into consideration the unique characteristics of the sea urchin fishery (rapid increase in fishing pressure, low level of technology needed to harvest the resource, and transportation of product to international markets).