Spread the love

Avellon Williams 

DOMINICA- There have been multiple ‘die-offs’ of sea urchins near Caribbean islands recorded by researchers and divers. According to the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), there are no clues yet as to why the urchins are dying at such an alarming rate.

AGRRA alarmed by sea urchin deaths /Image, DRNA/

In particular, the organization is concerned because other forms of marine life cannot thrive in the region’s waters without these spiny creatures.

A recent article on the organisation’s website, “The long-spined sea urchin, is one of the most important herbivores on Caribbean coral reefs, removing algae and maintaining open space for coral growth.” 

A healthy population of sea urchins suppresses invasive algae and makes way for native species to flourish. In February, AGRRA and divers first observed dying sea urchins near St. Thomas, and by March, more sick and dying sea urchins were seen on nearby islands, including Jamaica, Dominica, St. Vincent, and other Caribbean countries.

Scientists probe sea urchin death, /Image, LNTT/

Initially, the falling events were only noticed in Diademaantillarum, also known as the black sea urchin that’s easily recognizable because it has long, dark spikes, according to reports. As time progressed, other species of urchins began showing signs of distress. 

A healthy sea urchin has spikes covering most of its body and going straight up. Meanwhile, sick urchins often lose their spines and some of their inner tissue is exposed before they die, according to AGRRA.

Die-Off’ sea urchin, /Image, FONT/

Sadly, this is not the first instance of a sea urchin “die-off” in the region. Another one occurred in the early 1980s, and at the time, researchers were unsure why it happened. Unfortunately, only a few populations of sea urchins were able to recover from that episode, making the current death rate even more alarming.

Recent efforts have been made to maintain a healthy population of sea urchins in the region. Florida Aquarium in Tampa spawned and eventually released almost 200 sea urchins to help protect the Florida Reef late last year, the biggest urchin restocking effort in the past 20 years, according to an Axiosreport.

About Author

Avellon Williams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *