Sea Urchin New Zealand is a family owned and operated company based in Whitianga. The legendary Herb started out with a boat, some dive gear and a passion for free-diving in 1992. Since then his kids (and grandkids) have come on board and helped to expand the business to what it is today.
Generally operating from a home base at Flaxmill Bay, Whitianga, the dive team, consisting of four keen divers and a boatman, travel from Mercury Bay up to 160 kilometres per day to collect quality product. The days catch is brought back to our home base where it is packed in a trailer as a live product, and early the next morning is transported to our Whitianga factory for processing. We are very particular where and when we harvest Kina, leaving the more easily accessible dive spots for the recreational divers. We also keep note of where we have dived recently, and won't go back to the same spot more than once every 4-5 years. This ensures the Kina have enough time to regenerate and re-establish themselves, making our fisheries a very sustainable and managed
Our factory manager Dave ensures our factory team are ready to roll the moment he finds out the boys are diving. This means ensuring our "Kina Shed" is spotlessly clean and tidy and all equipment is sanitised ready for operation the next day. Orders are established, ice is organised, staff are notified, adequate polys and pottles are stocked, messages are cleared from the phone - and of course smoko is arranged!
Processing cranks up at 5:45am the next day with Dave and his team of about 16 keen locals. The most critical aspect of the processing is getting the temperature of the roe down to approximately 1°C, followed by quick dispatch to the markets. As in all fishing games, it is all about the two T's - Time and Temperature.
Being an MPI licensed export packhouse in New Zealand for sea urchin (Kina), the professional standards set by Herb and his team well exceed the domestic requirements of NZFSA, and make them a New Zealand leader in export standards for their product.
Dispatch to the markets is usually achieved within 18 hours of processing to domestic markets. For international markets we need to allow 48 hours from processing. As the product has a 15 day shelf life, we need to give our retailers as much time as possible to sell all of their orders. Regular customers have become very familiar with Herb calling when product is available, and are happy in the knowledge that they will get their orders delivered promptly.