International: NZ Sea Urchin, Sea Egg
Kina, scientific name Evechinus Chloroticus, is a type of sea urchin and traditional Māori food endemic to New Zealand. Kina produces a magnificent roe that is traditionally eaten raw as sashimi, but can also be smoked, or used as a sauce to flavour dishes. Fetching around $160-$180 per kilogram, Kina has been identified as a rich export prospect — though has not yet reached the popularity of NZ crayfish, paua or Blue Cod. National studies are currently looking into the medicinal benefits of eating Kina.
New Zealand Kina
Kina are a member of the Echinoderm family of marine animals which feature hard and/or spiny skin and inherent symmetry. One of 70 different species of sea urchin found in NZ waters, kina reside in rocky seafloor areas of coastline in shallow depths — usually around 10 to 15 meters. Recognised for their hedgehog-like appearance, kina contain a fleshy orange-yellow edible roe which is removed and sold commercially in pottles. At the end of its life, a kina will lose its spikes, leaving behind a beautiful green globe-like shell.
Nocturnal eaters, kina feed at night through a hole at the base of their shell. Extruding five small teeth, a kina will scrape and gnaw at plant matter growing from rocks. It’s not uncommon for dozens of kina to gather and chew their way through entire fields of brown seaweed — the animal’s meal of choice. Key predators include snapper, starfish and lobster, which are apt at catching juvenile kina.
Kina are generally considered sexually mature when they reach 30 – 70 mm in diameter — depending on the population and its location. Spawning annually through November to March, a female Kina will release hundreds of thousands of eggs — some of which will go on to be fertilised by sperm from a nearby male. Upon hatching, kina larvae spend 4-6 weeks feeding on microscopic plankton before settling on the seafloor and morphing into a tiny sea urchin. Slow growing, kina can live for 20 years or more reaching sizes of 150 - 200 mm.
Diving for Kina
Daily kina bag limits vary between 25 - 50 per person depending on the region.
Kina must be retrieved without the use of oxygen (free diving)
Kina can be found around the coast of the North Island, South Island and Chatham Islands; virtually every part of NZ’s rocky coastline with a food source. Popular spots include Southland, the Marlborough Sounds and the East Coast of the North Island.
What does Kina taste like?
There is no denying that kina is an acquired taste that divides seafood lovers. Those that do enjoy the flavour describe Kina as tasting like the sum of all seafood — rich, sweet, briny, creamy and undeniably oceanic. Lovers of kina enjoy the food raw and fresh atop the rocks they are diving from. For those that are curious and a little more reserved, kina is versatile enough to be creamed, fried, used in pies, as a spread, as a dip and added to foods like pasta.