TCDA’s Urchin Harvest Take All trial a collaborative success
Due to warming ocean temperatures, Long-Spined Sea Urchin barren growth has overtaken much of the Tasmanian coastline that overlaps with abalone fishing grounds. The effects felt on the abalone industry as a result led to the introduction of an urchin harvest subsidy in 2016.
In late April to mid-May 2020, the Tasmanian Commercial Divers Association (TCDA) underwent a trial of harvesting long-spined sea urchin of all sizes in collaboration with researchers and data analysts from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS). The collaborative effort sought to the efficiency and viability of harvesting Long-spined Sea Urchin of all sizes as an alternative to culling in relatively low-density sea urchin populations while also amassing data to enhance long-term research efforts, minimise environmental damage and increase efficiencies of commercial harvesting.
“All our guys are passionate about the ocean which is what led them to the water. Everyone is interested in trying to do the best thing they can for the environment. This was a great cause to get everyone together to get the best desired outcome,” said TCDA Vice President, Tom Chadwick.
Over 35 divers and deckhands went to sea from Marion Bar to Cape Hauy over the period. The area was chosen as it was not yet under immense commercial fishing pressure but also has the significant urchin population. Each diver was equipped with GPS area and depth trackers, with the data being sent in real time data signals to a land base. This increased diving efficiency as the data was used to ensure divers were not covering ground that had previously been covered. This data can then be used by IMAS to project future urchin growth as well as enhance longer term habitat recovery efforts for harvested areas.
The trial resulted in over 114,000 individual urchins harvested or 34,716 kilograms. Intentionally carried out during high peak roe recovery periods, the trial also created over 50 jobs in the processing sector with 70 per cent of the product processed.
The Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund was a proud supporter of the short film below which highlights how industry collaboration can result in innovation that supports and increases the sustainability and productivity of the Tasmanian abalone fishery.
Watch below for a full overview of the project and spectacular views of the Marion Bar to Cape Hauy area.
Read the full ‘Take all’ harvest trial of Longspined sea urchin report.