Swake or Swaki is the local name used for indicating the sea urchin (Tripneustes gratilla) in the Visayas, one of the most famous areas for this type of marine species, and so much so that it also characterizes the local cuisine.
Sea urchins have hard shells which are round and spiny, usually from 3 to 10 centimeter across. They move slowly, crawling with their tube feet and sometimes pushing themselves with their spines. They feed primarily on algae but also eat slow moving animals. In Negros Occidental (Sagay City): Swaki or sea urchin are usually found on sandy/rocky areas where sargassum (brown algae) thrives. While in San Carlos City, Sipaway Island is abundant of swake while tuyom (Diadema setosum) another variety of sea urchin with long spines is present in other coastal baranagays in the city
The island inhabitants have formed small groups of fishermen dedicated to artisanal and sustainable fishing for the different marine species, among which is the swake. For example, in Negros Occidental swake are collected during full moon until the third night. Then, they are sold fresh or processed (roe form) in the local markets or to direct buyers.
The edible parts of this shellfish are the gonads, which have a milky consistency and a sweet taste. In the local gastronomy, the swake is used in various dishes and several ways such as raw, grilled, sauteed, dipped with vinegar.
Sagay city has seen a significant increase in demand for this product due to its distinctive taste. It can mostly be found in reef flats and seagrass areas in Barangay Molocaboc and the surrounding reefs of Sagay City. Exporting of this product is being regulated by the Office of the Sagay Marine Reserve.Back to the archive >