The spiny dye-murex, or collectively known as tsubu, is a sea snail widely enjoyed throughout Hokkaido in sashimi and robatayaki that belongs to the buccinidae family. Starting with the whelk, which is commonly known as aotsubu, this species of sea snail contains countless subcategories, including the Neptune whelk, brother Neptune, and Verkruze’s Whelk.
Known for its palatable chewy texture, these sea snails also offer a strikingly refreshing scent of the sea when served fresh. Generally, sea snails are either boiled or stir fried in butter, and when slow cooked they produce a softer texture and added sweetness.
■Widely marketed as a specialty item of the Hidaka region
The Hidaka region boasts a large catch of sea snail, particularly in Erimo Town and Samani Town. This region accounts for one-third of Hokkaido’s sea snail catch, and the very large Neptune whelk is widely marketed as the true sea snail of Hidaka.
These sea snails prefer cold water, so most are caught in the Doto region of Eastern Hokkaido. Since the Neptune whelk can withstand environments with comparatively higher temperatures, it is believed to inhabit all of the waters surrounding Hokkaido.
■ Map / Main municipalities with fishing grounds
Erimo Town, Akkeshi Town, Kushiro City, Hiroo Town, Samani Town, Shiranuka Town, Kushiro Town, Shikabe Town, Nemuro City, Hamanaka Town
More than 50 types of sea snail are caught in the waters off Hokkaido and it is fun to travel to different regions to compare the taste of the local variety.
Sea snails are mainly caught using cages, with squid, Okhotsk atka mackerel, Alaska pollock and other fish used as bait. Sea snails go inside the cage placed on the seafloor in search of the bait and are trapped.
Tetramine contained in the salivary glands of sea snails can cause dizziness or headaches if eaten in too large a quantity. You should remove the salivary glands when preparing a sea snail in its shell by yourself.
Sea snails are caught along nearly every coastline in Hokkaido and salt water lakes such as Lake Saroma. This makes it possible for sea snails to be enjoyed throughout the year, depending on the season set in each respective region.