Penghu County, July 1 (CNA) The Penghu County government authorized the annual harvest of sea urchins to begin Wednesday, but the quantities immediately available in markets were down from years' past.
Sea urchins are harvested for a brief period every year in the coastal waters of the Penghu islands, beginning as early as June. This year, the government will allow sea urchins with a shell diameter of at least eight centimeters to be caught from July to August.
After the two-month period, the harvest, processing, selling, and possession of sea urchins will be prohibited, and violators will be sentenced to up to three years in jail or fined up to NT$150,000, the county government said.
Harvested sea urchins quickly went on sale Wednesday at the Magong Third Fishing Port Market, but the amount available was down from previous years, with only a few stalls each selling around 100 sea urchins each at prices ranging from NT$50 (US$1.70) to NT$80.
With the upcoming Penghu International Fireworks Festival expected to bring in large numbers of tourists, hotels and restaurants have ordered large quantities of the prickly creatures, leaving only limited amounts for the fresh seafood markets, fishermen said.
The sea urchins harvested in Penghu, classified as the species Tripneustes Gratilla, are viewed as a high quality delicacy and a favorite of consumers, according to the Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau of Penghu County.
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Sea urchins hit Penghu market Wednesday. / Photo courtesy of CNA