Sample dredged from seabed containing sea urchins. Whiting Bay, ME. Photo USGS: K. Kelly (Maine DMR), Sam Truesdell (UMaine).

Seacoast Online: A boom that saw Maine fishermen harvest millions of pounds of sea urchins for the lucrative Japanese market depleted the spiny sea creatures, turning the ecosystem upside-down and creating an ideal habitat for an urchin predator that has flourished, according to a new scientific study.

The urchin bonanza of the 1990s triggered an ecological chain reaction that “flipped” the ecosystem from one with a stable amount of kelp and Jonah crabs to one with an overabundance of kelp and crabs — and a lack of urchins, the study said.

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Seacoast Online


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