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Seen any Sea Urchins lately?

July 8, 2022

They need our help!

Long-spined sea urchins were once extremely abundant in the Florida Keys.

However, back in the 1980s, a disease of unknown origin nearly wiped them out and we have seen a decline in their species of about 97%.

In December 2021, the Florida Aquarium released nearly 200 of them near the Florida Keys. This is the largest known effort and release of hatchery reared long-spined sea urchins in the last twenty years. We are hopeful that their efforts will prove to be successful so that we can enjoy more of these lovely, important creatures on our reefs!

Here are are some fun facts about our prickly friends:

… they are nocturnal creatures

… they have no bones in their body

… they have a “shield” of venomous spines

… their jaw has 5 powerful teeth which is referred to as “Aristotle’s lantern” (Aristotle discovered the mouth is continuous from end to end and looks like a lantern)

… they feed mainly on algae on the coral and rocks which is a vital service to keep our reefs healthy. Without them, algae overgrowth literally smothers the coral to death

… in the popular video game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, they can be found all day up north in July but only by scuba diving!

How Can We Help???

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is asking people to report when and where you see long-spined sea urchins with, and without, signs of disease.

Their reporting tool is located at or you can call the hotline 866-770-7335. Pictures are always helpful as well! The photo below shows the difference between a healthy and sick urchin.

Sea urchins should be equally fun and easy to see snorkeling and scuba diving… or even from the boat on a calm day.  Let’s keep a sharp lookout for them on your next Lucky Fish Scuba private charter in Key Largo!

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