The common nearshore sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus is capable of surviving exposure to inorganic phosphate concentrations as high as 3.2 mg/l-1 and organic phosphate concentrations of 1,000 mg/l-1. However, chronic exposure to low, medium, or high sublethal concentrations of these phosphates inhibits gonadal tissue indices and spawning activity while altering biochemical composition of gonads, reducing size frequencies of oocyte diameters, and changing gonadal volume fractions. Gonad indices declined significantly in individuals maintained in all phosphate concentrations after both one- and two-month exposures, while percentages of ripe individuals (oozing gametes upon dissection) were reduced after a two-month exposure in individuals maintained in medium and high organic phosphate concentrations. Levels of carbohydrates and lipids were lower in gonads of individuals maintained in all concentrations of both phosphates. Size frequency distributions of oocyte diameters revealed a dramatic decrease in oocyte size with increasing concentrations of both phosphates. Gonadal volume fractions of developing male and female gametes decreased with exposure to increasing phosphate levels. Volume fractions of nutritive phagocytes declined in testes of individuals held in the highest concentration of organic phosphate but displayed no significant change in ovaries. Volume fractions of mature gametes also decreased in gonads of individuals exposed to increasing concentrations of inorganic phosphate, but they remained constant in individuals exposed to all concentrations of organic phosphate. These findings indicate that shallow-water populations of L. variegatus subjected to inorganic and organic phosphate pollutants will exhibit stress that may impair reproductive output, gametogenesis, and spawning in the natural environment. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.