Sea Urchin and Turban Shell Restricted Fishery

Commencement of regional catch and size limits for red urchins.

As part of the determination of the total allowable commercial catch for red urchins for 2019 the Total Allowable Fishing (TAF) Committee recommended that regional catch limits and a size limit of 115mm be introduced to promote a sustainable fishery and to reduce the risk of localised depletion. The Department undertook consultation on these measures during August 2019, and with industry support these measures will commence on 11 October 2019. View the Fisheries Management (Red Sea Urchin) Fishing Closure Notification 2019.

From 11 October 2019 red urchin harvesters will be prohibited from taking red urchins with a maximum test diameter (size limit) of less than 115mm. Maximum test diameter means the maximum diameter of the sea urchin when measured along its longest axis, disregarding any spines. This measure will contribute to protecting juvenile red urchin from harvest.

Monitoring of red urchin harvest indicates that total harvest from fishing region 3 has exceeded the regional limit of 6.6 tonnes.

From 11 October 2019 sea urchin endorsement holders are prohibited from taking red urchins from region 3 for the remainder of this fishing period (31 December 2019). Monitoring of regional catch elsewhere will be ongoing and closures advised if needed.

Total Allowable Commercial Catch for Red Urchin

A Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for Red Urchin is set each year by the statutory and independent Total Allowable Fishing Committee. The TACC is proportionately allocated to each fishing business holding an urchin endorsement in the fishery.

There are currently 37 urchin endorsements in the fishery, and some business owners also hold endorsements in other NSW commercial fisheries.

A TACC of 60 tonnes has been set for the 2019 fishing period (1 January to 31 December 2019) following the determination of the Total Allowable Fishing Committee.

Share class fact sheets

New rules will apply in most share classes from 1 December 2017. Fact sheets are available for each share class detailing the new share linkage arrangements and proposed new rules.

Sea Urchin &Turban Shell 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.

Sea urchin species commonly taken in NSW

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.Turban shell species commonly taken in NSW

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).Internal anatomy of a sea urchin showing the skeins of roe (or uni), which is the primary product in the sea urchin fishery

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.


For further information contact the Sea Urchin and Turban Shell Restricted Fishery Manager on (02) 6691 9625.

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