Harvester: The California Urchin Diver Experience
This short video, voted “Best Student Film” at the 2008 Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival, explores the world and culture of California’s commercial sea-urchin divers. Diving deep and breathing compressed air from the surface through hoses called “hookahs”, these men brave rough seas and challenging conditions to supply the worldwide sushi market with the highly desirable Uni — the gonad of the Red Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus).
Beginning in the early 1970’s, commercial fisherman began harvesting large numbers of urchins for export, and have had to satisfy a growing market since then. The fishery has fluctuated periodically, as urchin stocks are highly dependent upon the health of the kelp beds they live in and feed from. Currently, the fishery is
considered well managed and thus listed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (link) as yellow, or a “Good Alternative”.
Take a short look into the lives of your hard-working local California urchin divers!