Seafood Watch - Seafood Guide

Sea Urchin Roe

© Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea Urchin Roe Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts. Uni California Wild
Sea Urchin Roe Avoid: Avoid these products for now. These fish come from sources that are overfished or fished or farmed in ways that harm the environment. Uni Maine Wild
Sea Urchin Roe Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Uni Canada Wild

Sea Urchin Roe, Wild

Red and green sea urchin is fished primarily for its gonads (reproductive organs) or "roe". The healthiest and most abundant urchin populations are found in Canada.

Consumer Note

Urchin roe is sold as uni when prepared for sushi. It's served in a variety of forms including raw; with rice; preserved in brine and alcohol and salt; and in casseroles.


Studies have shown that red sea urchins may live 50 or even 100 years! However, unlike some fishes or sharks with long life spans, urchins reproduce at a young age and a female might release several million eggs at a time.

Wild urchins are collected by hand by commercial divers. These fisheries are very environmentally friendly, with little impact on the habitat and little bycatch of non-target species.

North American urchin populations vary widely coast to coast and most have been overfished. Over half of the roe consumed in the U.S. comes from urchins caught in California. The remaining half is split equally between Maine and Canada.

It's important to know where your urchin roe comes from. Roe from Canada is a "Best Choice," roe from California is a "Good Alternative" and roe from Maine is rated as "Avoid."

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How fish are caught or farmed makes a difference. Fishing boat