While NSW continues to sit on their hands around the devastation being caused by sea urchins to the marine environment Tasmania has recognised the issues and looked to bringing solutions that are a win win for the marine environment and for business. DPI NSW say "The main constraint on development in NSW at this time is high processing costs and limited domestic markets". In 2019 a NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) spokesperson denied that sea urchins are a pest on the Far South Coast, and say they are monitoring urchin numbers in marine sanctuaries.
“There are no known pest sea urchins present in NSW waters, however there are many common native sea urchins along the NSW coast,” the spokesman said.
“Sea urchins are known to have increases in population size at certain times of the year and while it is largely unknown as to why this occurs, it may be in response to changes in water quality, food and habitat availability.
“The presence of urchin barrens in NSW is considered to be due to the reduction in the abundance of key urchin predators, however this is considered a natural process and not considered as a significant risk to the NSW marine estate.
“The DPI is undertaking monitoring work inside and outside of marine park sanctuary zones to further assess their impacts.”
Urchin barrens are a huge environmental problem on the NSW South coast. Fully half the shallow rocky reefs in our area are now degraded. Most people don’t know that half of the shallow rocky reefs on the South Coast of NSW look more like an underwater moonscape than a healthy and diverse habitat.
Following persistent advocacy from the Nature Coast Marine Group, the Marine Park has set up a Working Group comprising various stakeholders that will look at how the urchin barrens problem can be dealt with in the Batemans Marine Park. It has not yet developed a forward plan, but NCMG will be actively engaged.
This video is about the Urchin Barren problem, made by Bill Barker
Meanwhile in Tasmania:
From pest to opportunity, Sea Urchin ‘popcorn’ and urchin dumplings with butter, are some of the latest seafood delicacies that are changing opinions on Centros!
A plan to develop a national strategy on the opportunities and challenges arising from the Longspined Sea Urchin – Centrostephanus rodgersii, or Centro for short, is underway.
A recent two-day workshop held in Launceston, co-sponsored by the FRDC and the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania with support from the state’s Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund, was the catalyst for this strategy.
The 130 participants who attended the workshop were provided with an update on Centro’s biology and ecology, its impacts on the marine environment, and the many management options available. Attendees also heard how robotics, machine learning, and associated data collection could all play a part in managing Centro.
FRDC is supporting R&D with diverse projects from commercial Centro harvesting to safe-guarding reef-dependent fisheries such as abalone and lobsters as well as non-commercial species.
The workshop was a creative way of repositioning a problem into an opportunity.