Sea urchin

Distribution

Sea urchins are herbivorous marine invertebrates that are generally found on sub-tidal rocky reefs. Two species of sea urchins are commercially harvested in Victorian waters:

black (long-spined) sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii)
Black (long-spined) sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii)
white (or purple) sea urchin  (Heliocidaris erythrogramma)
White (or purple) sea urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma)

Images by Peter Southwood [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The white sea urchin is endemic to south eastern Australia, and its distribution extends from central Western Australia to southern Queensland including Tasmania. It has reached very high densities on some reefs in Port Phillip Bay. 

The black sea urchin has typically been found from central New South Wales to around Cape Conron in eastern Victoria, and along the east coast of Tasmania. A small number of black sea urchins have been reported further along the Victorian coast. The distributional range of black sea urchins is believed to be expanding, driven by climate-related changes to the East Australian current.   

Stock structure

The biological stock structure of these sea urchin species in Victorian waters has not been studied in detail. Management of both species in Victoria is based on four spatial zones. This approach aims to support the economic productivity and viability of the fishery, and the sustainability of white sea urchins in eastern Victoria. 

Sea urchins were not included in the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report 2014, but their status has been assessed by The Victorian Fisheries Authority at the Victorian state scale. 

Annual catch

Sector

Victorian Catch: white sea urchin

Victorian Catch: black sea urchin

Commercial (2015/16 fishing year)

*

7 tonnes

Recreational (data from 2000/01 national survey)

none known

none known

Indigenous (i.e. 2015/16 customary fishing permits)

0 tonnes

0 tonnes

Estimated total

*

7 tonnes

*The Victorian Fisheries Authority does not release catch information derived from less than 5 commercial licence holders, to protect commercial confidentiality

Stock status

The table below summarises and explains the status and management of sea urchins based on: 

  1. Stock status: assessment of the status of black and white sea urchins in Victoria as at 2014 by Fisheries Victoria. Read more here about the status of Victorian sea urchin stocks in the Sea Urchin Fishery Baseline Management Arrangements report.
  2. Management settings: overview of current management arrangements in Victorian waters, including any recent changes that may affect stock status.
  3. Risk management category: The Victorian Fisheries Authority's overall, qualitative assessment of current risk to stock status in Victorian waters taking into account management arrangements, based on the best information currently available:

    Red Red - current management measures may not be sufficient to prevent stock depletion
    Amber Amber - current management measures expected to mitigate risk of stock depletion
    Green Green - stock status not of concern under current management

The stock status classification, management settings and risk management category for white and black sea urchins are all at the scale of Victorian waters. Stock status is based only on sustainability. Management settings and risk management category also consider the steps taken to address stock status. 

Management settings are also influenced by social and economic factors, and can take some time to affect a stock's status. This can depend on biological and environmental factors as well as the type and level of management changes implemented.

White sea urchin

Stock status (2001-2013 data)

Key management settings

Risk management category

Classification:

undefined

Commercial harvest is predominantly managed by limited entry licensing, a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) and gear restrictions, while recreational fishers are subject to bag limits and some restrictions to fishing locations.

The new licensing framework for the commercial sea urchin fishery was introduced in 2015, including a conservative TACC.

Read more detail here about the fishing methods and rules for sea urchins in Victoria.

Read more here about baseline management arrangements for the Victorian sea urchin fishery.

Green

Evidence:

Collectively, the following data provide evidence that this stock  is undefined. 

While stock status assessment is constrained by data availability, FV is not aware of information that indicates stock status concerns

Basis for stock status classification

Biomass assessment

The assessment concluded that there was insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

Fishing pressure assessment

The assessment concluded that there was insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

Black sea urchin

Stock status (2001-2013 data)

Key management settings

Risk management category

Classification:

undefined

Commercial harvest is predominantly managed by limited entry licensing, a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) and gear restrictions, while recreational fishers are subject to bag limits and some restrictions to fishing locations.

The new licensing framework for the commercial sea urchin fishery was introduced in 2015, including a conservative TACC.

Read more detail here about the fishing methods and rules for sea urchins in Victoria.

Read more here about baseline management arrangements for the Victorian sea urchin fishery.

Green

Evidence:

Collectively, the following data provide evidence that this stock  is undefined. 

  • fishery dependent data: commercial catch
  • fishery independent data: surveys

While stock status assessment is constrained by data availability, FV is not aware of information that indicates stock status concerns