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Sea-urchins belong to the
phylum Echinodermata. They are widespread throughout the world’s oceans, warm
and cold. Humans were known to consume sea-urchin gonads since prehistoric era (Lawrence,
2007). The gonad is considered delicacies and is mostly consumed in the
Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific. Today as fishery products, the sea-urchin gonads have
become an important commodity in various countries, such as United States,
Japan, Chile, Spain, and France (Keesing & Hall, 1998). Then, the
current market demand for sea-urchin products tends to increase, and it is
predicted to grow in the future. Unfortunately, after reached peak production
in 1995, the harvesting of wild sea-urchins continued to decline due to
overfishing and lack of proper fisheries management (Andrew et al., 2002). However, the world
production of sea-urchins essentially comes from the wild, and this activity
looks ecologically unsound. Therefore, the practice of unsustainable fishing of
wild sea-urchins should be stopped because it can disrupt the balance of marine
ecosystems, and it reduces the economic potential of fisheries, and also it can
be replaced with sea-urchin aquaculture. 

First, over-exploitation of
sea-urchins should be banned because it causes ecological damage. Sea-urchins
are an important biological agent, and they are responsible for maintaining the
health of coral reefs. The depletion of sea-urchins leads to uncontrolled
invasive algae growth covering the coral surface thus inhibiting the formation
of new coral polyp and limiting total coral growth. In addition, sea-urchins provide a
significant contribution to nitrogen cycles in seagrass ecosystems. Sea-urchins
eat seagrass leaves in large quantities, but they have a limitation in
absorbing nitrogen, so they excrete nitrogen in the form of ammonium in a
significant amount. Then the bacteria will turn ammonium into nitrate which
will be reused by seagrass. Moreover, sea-urchins are an important food source for marine biotas
that live in the seagrass and reef ecosystems. Some predators, such as
triggerfish, starfish, wolf eels, sharks hunt and feed on sea-urchin gonads
which are used as a protein source to meet their energy adequacy.

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reason why overfishing of sea urchins needs to stop is that it may reduce
coastal community revenues from the fisheries sector. One of the ecological effects of the depletion
of sea urchins is to decline the health of coral reefs. Such losses often have
a domino effect, not only on the coral reef ecosystems themselves but also on
the local economies that rely on it. For example, fishermen will spend more money to buy
fuel because they are sailing farther than before. They have no choice
because the amount of fish in shallow waters has diminished. Another example is the decline in incomes of local people who rely
their lives on collecting ornamental fish. The reduced population of sea
urchins caused some species of ornamental fish to lose shelter. One of them is
the Banggai cardinalfish which is a popular fish for aquarium display hiding among
the spines of sea urchins for protection against predators.

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