Sea Urchin and Turban Shell Restricted Fishery
In Australia, commercial fishing for sea urchins occurs in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia. The taking of turban shell commercially is mainly restricted to NSW waters. The NSW Sea Urchin and Turban Shell (SUTS) restricted fishery is relatively small with few divers participating. The main constraint on development in NSW at this time is high processing costs and limited domestic markets.
Most commercial fishers dive for sea urchins and turban shells using surface supplied compressed air (hookah). Because the catch is taken manually, there is no by-catch of other species.
Figure 1 Sea urchin species commonly taken in NSW SUTS Fishery. From left to right Centrostephanus rodgersii, Heliocidaris tuberculata and Heliocidaris erythrogramma.
Fishing for sea urchins is generally constrained to that part of the year when the roe is well developed. Purple urchins are harvested primarily from October to March when the quality of their roe is best. Red urchins have an extended spawning period (from February to October) and specimens with firm roe of marketable volume and quality are found year round. Turban shells are harvested year round for their fleshy foot. A minimum legal length of shell has been set for the Sydney turban snail (Turbo torquatus) and Military turban snail (Turbo militaris).
Figure 2 Turban shell species commonly taken in NSW (left to right). Turbo torquatus, Turbo militaris and Turbo undulatus.
A number of the fishing sub-regions have been closed to commercial SUTS fishing since 1994 to provide reference points for stock assessment purposes and as refugia. Following concerns about potential over harvesting, a total allowable commercial catch for red sea urchins of 60 tonnes per year has been in effect since 2002.
Figure 3 Internal anatomy of a sea urchin showing the skeins of roe (or uni), which is the primary product in the sea urchin fishery.
For further information contact the Sea Urchin and Turban Shell Restricted Fishery Manager on +61 2 9527 8411.
Want to know more?
See the Fisheries rules and regulations page