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DMR Annual Spring Dive Survey for Green Sea Urchins

Sea urchin on deck with measuring calipersSea urchin survey diver and gearEvery year since 2001, DMR has conducted an annual spring sea urchin dive survey, funded by the industry’s license surcharge, with the cooperation of industry, the Sea Urchin Zone Council, and scientists and students at the University of Maine.

For the purposes of the survey, the state’s coast is divided into nine regions. Every year within each of the nine regions, at least 16 sites with suitable urchin habitat are evaluated. At each site divers enter the water at a depth of roughly 50 feet and collect data along a course perpendicular to shore until they reach the low water mark. Sixty quadrats of one square meter each (m2) are evaluated along each course for sea urchins, algal cover (seaweeds), crabs, sea cucumbers, sea stars and invasive tunicates.  A sample of sea urchins is brought to the surface for measuring (see picture).

The survey for 2014 will begin in southern Maine near York the first week of May. The two divers (Robert Russell, DMR biologist and Marcus Jones, a commercial sea urchin harvester) working from an industry vessel will work eastward over the following 8 weeks until they finish in Cobscook Bay. For more information contact Robert Russell at DMR.

Survey results through spring 2013:

graph of avg biomass over time for each zone