Protect Endangered Sea Urchins From Illegal Fishing

Target: Renato Schifani, President of Sicily

Goal: Strengthen conservation measures for sea urchins at risk of extinction.

An important part of the marine ecosystem—and a driver of Sicily’s economy—is in danger of vanishing because of human greed. Sicilian sea urchins live on the ocean floor and make their diet of algae. Unfortunately, people (mostly tourists) are making a diet of them in large numbers. Sea urchin spaghetti is a popular dish in the nation, which compels abundant harvesting and fishing of the species.

Although sea urchin fishing is regulated, illegal harvesting is rampant. A recent study revealed the devastating toll of this problem, as little to no signs of healthy sea urchins were detected on the sea floor. Researchers warned that only a three-year pause in sea urchin fishing around Sicily’s coast could save the species, but the idea is facing major opposition from fishers and restaurant industry leaders.

A ban will not work in the absence of a strict crackdown on illegal fishing and a strengthening of enforcement policies. Demand Sicily’s government take immediate action to protect a vital natural and economic resource.


Dear President Schifani,

Opposition to sea urchin conservation efforts is strong. This government must realize that in absence of urgent conservation, however, worries about an economic impact will be a moot point. Sea urchins need to thrive in Sicily’s waters before they can contribute to the economy. On their current trajectory, they will not exist at all.

While the proposed temporary pause on fishing is touted as a last resort necessity, even this extreme measure will fail if illegal fishing is not stopped. Unchecked and unpunished illegal sea urchin harvesting is driving this species to extinction and forcing restauranteurs to seek international avenues to meet their consumers’ demands. Please institute a more rigorous and robust enforcement policy on these illegal acts before they claim an important Sicilian resource.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Nick Hobgood

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