Edible sea urchin

Edible sea urchin

Edible sea urchin ©Polly Whyte/Earth in Focus

Edible sea urchin

Scientific name: Echinus esculentus
This large round urchin is sometimes found in rockpools, recognisable by its pink spiky shell (known as a test).

Species information


Diameter: up to 15cm Average Lifespan: 5-10 years

Conservation status

Classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

When to see

January to December


Also known as the Common sea urchin, the Edible sea urchin is large and round with short, strong spines. It is often a pinkish-purple colour but it can be red, green or yellow. It lives on the seabed down to depths of 40m and can occasionally be found in rockpools on a very low tide. The Edible sea urchin is a grazer, feasting on seaweeds, bryozoans, barnacles and anything else it can find. Sea Urchins are echinoderms, related to starfish, sea cucumbers and brittlestars. Their scientific name "Echinus" comes from the Greek word for hedgehog - it's easy to see why with all those spines!

How to identify

The largest British Sea urchin. Usually pinky-purple in colour with short, stout spines. They may also be red, green or yellow.


Found on most coasts around the UK, largely absent from the East Coast and English Channel.

Did you know?

Not all of the Edible sea urchin is edible! It is the gonads that are the delicacy and referred to as sea urchin roe. It is particularly enjoyed in Spain and Portugal.

How people can help

Avoid buying any curios, gifts or ornaments that feature dried sea creatures, especially threatened species such as sea urchins, seahorses or coral. If you find an empty Sea Urchin test (shell) on the beach, then that's okay to keep! The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or check out our Action pages.