For the first time since 2016, sea egg lovers can now enjoy this popular Bajan delicacy, with the ban being lifted on September 15.
And, as the season opened, sea egg lovers, from as early as 6 a.m., flocked to the island’s shores – some to dive and process, others to purchase and sample the sea eggs that lay on the ocean floor.
But as excitement for the delicacy continues to build, experienced divers and processors are calling on officials at the Fisheries Division to revisit the open season for sea eggs. Some persons involved in the industry believe that opening the season at this time may be a little too late as some sea eggs had started to “die off”.
However, Fisheries Biologist at the Fisheries Division, Christopher Parker, said this might not be the ideal thing to do. During an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service at the Ermy Bourne Highway, he said that officially and legally, a closed season for sea eggs was in place since 1879, and traditionally started from September 1.
Parker explained that the aim of the closed season was to preserve the young sea eggs without disturbing them.
“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. You want some of the older ones to be out there, so if something happens to them you would still have that reserve,” Parker said.
Making reference to the difference in the size of sea eggs, Parker said the larger ones were between one to two years old, with the average life span being at least three years. He added that what harvesters were seeing at present was multi-generational sea eggs, which meant they were now seeing multiple generations of the delicacy.
“It is not to say we are just protecting the young sea eggs and say ‘go for the older ones’… All we want is to have some adult sea eggs left on the reefs, so you don’t have to rely on the real juveniles to take over. It doesn’t matter if it is a one-year-old or two-year-olds,” he said.
Parker further noted that animals were more “robust” after reaching the adult stage than those in the earlier stages, and the young ones tended to die for various reasons. He explained that a sea egg went through a number of cycles during the peak spawning period. Once that spawning period “levels off” and the activity is reduced, the nutritive tissue is present.
“That is what you want. So, it is not that you want to go earlier to harvest; you want to let as much spawning occur as possible during the season, and around September/October, you would get into that state where that is over for a while. So, the peak spawning season would be over,” he said.
He noted that spawning events usually occurred between April and August.
“That is why it is a no-no to harvest them at that time,” he said.
Parker warned that harvesting sea eggs during a spawning event may result in harvesters ending up with nothing and ultimately wasting the animal.
Processor Lisa Oliver-Bascombe said the demand for sea eggs was “great”.
“No matter how many divers or beakers are out there, you will get your sea eggs sold. It is a very good delicacy,” she said.
However, she added that while the quantities were there, the quality of sea eggs being harvested was not 100 per cent because the season should have started earlier.
“The season should have started earlier than in this September month, so you would have a better sea egg,” she stressed. And, she is calling on officials from the Fisheries Division to survey the season differently, and monitor when the sea eggs were “ready”, rather than going with the traditional September month.
This view was shared by diver for 35 years, Edmund Oliver, who noted that this year’s catch was between 60 to 80 per cent, as some had started to die off because they were old.
“They are out there, but they are no good,” he said, stating that he had seen some that had died.
Despite this concern, as harvesters reaped the delicacy from the seagrass bed, the processors were prepared with buckets of seawater for the sea eggs as they cleaned them. They then discarded the empty shells by burying them deep in the sand to avoid anyone being stuck by their spines.
During the season, there will be a no harvest area. It runs from Kendal Point in Atlantic Shores, Christ Church, to The Chair, which is south of Ragged Point, St Philip, and sea egg divers are urged to adhere to this restriction.
The harvesting of sea eggs will come to an end on October 14. (BGIS)