Tacoma poacher busted with 1,088 sea urchins. Their sex organs sell for $100 per pound

A commercial diver was cited for collecting 1,088 undersized sea urchins Jan. 7 when he pulled into Breakwater Marina in Tacoma. He was cited for the same violation in 2017. Al Grillo AP file, 1997

Sea urchins — those spiny creatures beach goers carefully avoid stepping on — are a hot commodity.

Sometimes too hot.

A sea urchin poacher was caught Jan. 7 when he pulled into Tacoma’s Breakwater Marina,just east of Point Defiance Park.

Officer Jake Greshock with the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s Central Sound Marine Detachment was watching the commercial diver from shore as he harvested green sea urchins north of the Tacoma Narrows bridges.

When Greshock checked the diver’s 1,500 pounds of sea urchins at the marina he found several under the minimum 2 1/4-inch size limit. He called in three other officers and Sgt. Erik Olson to help measure them.

When they were done, the officers found 1,088 of the prickly creatures under the size limit — about 15 percent of the diver’s catch.

The diver was cited for a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The fine would equal the value of 50 pounds of coveted sea urchin innards.

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