Fresh! Whole! Live! Local! The Best Sea Urchin and "California Gold" Uni in San Diego: Diver Direct from Captain Gary Harle of Mission Bay!

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Wild West Commercial Fishing presents San Diego's freshest and the best, whole, live, local red sea urchins (which contain the eccentric delicacy known as "California Gold" uni-roe), harvested and sold directly by Captain Gary Harle, a seasoned, 33-year diver and owner-operator of Victoria Anne Enterprises, based in Mission Bay.

Gary Harle, nicknamed "the Sarge," has been Wild West's dockside neighbor and direct connection to the urchin industry for over a decade. Captain Harle has long established himself as the premiere urchin diver who hand-picks the most select, top-quality sea urchins for select, top-notch, around-the-town markets and restaurants. And now Gary is opening doors to offering his undersea products directly to the public!

Please read below to learn more about red sea urchins and Gary's harvesting operation. Otherwise, feel free to contact our dockside friend, Captain Gary Harle, if you only desire the best, whole, live, local, and super-fresh San Diego sea urchins!

urchin diver, seafood vendor, licensed and insured, Victoria Anne Enterprises

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UniLandia: A Deep Dive Into the San Diego
Sea Urchin Fishery with Gary Harle

Captain Gary Harle is a seasoned urchin harvester and owner of Victoria Anne Enterprises, stationed in Mission Bay, San Diego, California. Gary, who's long been nicknamed by his dock-mates and deckhands as "the Sarge," prides himself as a 33-year diver and third-generation fisherman, in which his forefathers made a living off of catfish and buffalo fish harvests along the Mississippi River. His sturdy vessel, the Victoria Anne, is a 32-foot Radon inherently customized for the urchin fishery, and has kept his business afloat for 29 years.

In addition to being a prolific urchin diver and devout family man, Gary has contributed to the urchin industry by serving for a few years as a San Diego Representative within the California Sea Urchin Commission (CSUC), and was one of the founders of a San Diego commercial fishermen's organization initially designed to address and resolve regional collective fisheries issues. Furthermore, his dive operation was featured on one of the first episodes of Animal Planet's "Off the Hook: Extreme Catches" in a media installment entitled "Go Ahead, Mako My Day / Diving for California Gold."

For the past 12 years, Gary Harle has been self-marketing his harvest of red sea urchins to various niche markets and restaurants around San Diego. Along the way, he has established himself among customers, chefs, and wholesalers alike as a premiere-urchin purveyor, who hand-picks and delivers the most select, top quality sea urchins to top-notch, around-the-town venues. For example, some of his staple drop-off locations of his whole, live urchins include H-Mart, World Foods, and Vien-Dong. And now as a fully licensed and insured diver and vendor, Gary is opening doors to offering his undersea products directly to the public!

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The Urchin's Aurous Pearl: 
A Penta-Plume of "California Gold" Uni

The California Red Sea Urchin, scientifically coined as Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, is lumped into an assortment of other echinoderms--such as sea cucumbers, starfish, and sand dollars, who have all risen to biological prominence for their penta-radial symmetry. The urchins, more precisely, or these spiny, deep-red-purple "blackberries of the sea," graze on diverse species of kelp, notably Macrocystis pyrifera, or the giant kelp.

Gary Harle routinely dives within these vibrant, fertile kelp beds in depths ranging from 30 to 80 feet, specifically with the task of hand-pick-harvesting small bundles of sea urchins in numerous localities within the cool-to-temperate, nutrient-rich coastal waters off San Diego. He tends to target urchins of ideal market size--which is an average of one pound--so red sea urchins are commonly sold either by the pound or by the piece.
In between dives, Gary frequently cracks open a few sample urchins from his catch on the deck of the Victoria Anne in order to taste-test the uni--or the five portions of bright, exquisite, orange-to-golden-petaled roe contained within each urchin--as Gary Harle himself has become a well-versed connoisseur in verifying that he is indeed harvesting THEE freshest, supreme-tasting, salty-buttery-sweet, firm-yet-lightly-smooth-and-creamy-textured, most-brilliantly-hued, and overall outstanding quality and highest possible grade of uni our local San Diego waters have to offer. And hence, it should be of no surprise that this inwardly silky, penta-plumed Sea Rose of Uni-Roe, contrastingly-yet-graciously protected by a thick, spherical shell of violaceously auspicious, prickly spines--has been more formally canonized as... 
"California Gold."
Uni is frequently used as a delicacy in a variety of Japanese sushi dishes, as well as staple-to-addendums for a selection of Italian meals and other experimental European fare. It is actually extremely popular in San Diego to crack your own whole, live urchin and eat fresh uni right out of the shell!

Captain Harle's diving and seafood vending outfit is highly regulated by California's Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), as well a fretwork of other federal, state, and local government agencies, to ensure the long-term sustainability of marine resources and harvesters' livelihoods, as well as enforce the highest standards and best practices in public-consumer health and safety with food handling. For example, CDFW restrictions currently in play for marine sustainability include biological size limits (3.25-inch test-shell diameter as the minimum legal harvest size), a cap in the number of participating urchin divers (300 permits within the state of California, in which roughly 170 permits are active), and constraints in the number of harvesting days per week (for part of the year, divers can only round up urchins four days per week).

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How to Order Your Own Sea Urchins

So, if you are sincerely interested in purchasing the freshest and the best, just-caught-today red sea urchins directly from the diver himself... Captain Gary Harle is expanding his uni customer base to include markets, restaurants, AND direct sales to the public, whether these orders may be for sushi parties, catering events, or group-buys among your family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends!

Please consider these parameters for sea urchin orders and purchases:
  • Victoria Anne Enterprises is currently taking 30-pound (30-piece) minimum orders of fresh, whole, live red sea urchins. No processing services are available.
  • If you are able to pick up your load of sea urchins in the Mission Bay Area, the current price is $4.50 per pound.
  • If you would like Victoria Anne Enterprises to deliver sea urchins to your location within the San Diego vicinity (15-20 miles from Mission Bay), the price is $5.00 per pound.
  • Special orders and/or requests will be considered, and requires a 48-hour advance notice.
  • Captain Gary Harle and his crew are OUT AT SEA harvesting sea urchins during the weekdays from mid-morning to late-afternoon, in which he may be hard to reach by phone underwater. So please consider contacting him during the week in the early mornings and early evenings.
We look forward to hearing from you and fulfilling your next outrageously fresh, whole, live, local San Diego sea urchin order!

urchin diver, seafood vendor, licensed and insured, Victoria Anne Enterprises