Maine fishing regulators will close an area to sea urchin fishing to facilitate a project that would transplant the spiny animals.

The new regulation closes sea urchin harvesting in the Cat Ledges area off of Southport until May 1, 2018. The Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council approved the plan on Tuesday.

The state says the transplant is a way to re-establish a colony of “commercially viable urchins” in an area that formerly supported a wild harvest.

Maine urchins are harvested commercially because their roe is used in food.

Maine and California have the most valuable sea urchin fisheries in the country. California’s fishery is much larger, but Maine urchins are typically worth more per pound. The state’s urchin fishery was valued at nearly $5.4 million in 2014.

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