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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Some may consider it a bizarre food, but it’s a delicacy in other parts of the world.

Sea urchins are being grown by scientists in the Magic City.

It’s a hot commodity, so much so, that it has become over harvested and scientists have spent years trying to keep sea urchin readily available to those who’ve acquired the taste for the spiny creature.

“90% of the sea urchins are now gone from the Gulf of Maine. We’re down at least 60% off the coast of California,” said Dr. Stephen Watts, Professor of Biology.

The roe inside the urchin is what the world is after and in order to keep up with the demand scientists are trying to figure out a more sustainable way to raise them for businesses.

“They could be very profitable. They could offer new jobs for individuals in displaced communities where fisheries have traditionally been found but are somewhat waining due to over fishing, pollution and other problems” Watts adds.

Biologists at UAB are growing sea urchins from “scratch.”And since urchins taste like the things they eat, in order to make sure they are pleasing to the palate, the biologists also make the food they eat.

The urchins grown at UAB have gotten two thumbs up from Birmingham’s own renowned Chef Chris Hastings.

Hastings has partnered with UAB to unsure the urchins taste as food connoisseurs expect. Hastings says the urchins raised at UAB are some of the best he has ever tasted.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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