Between 2016 and 2018 this project subsidised the commercial harvest of the long spined sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii.
For a few years now, the prevailing view amongst the seafood industry and Government is that the most cost effective, efficient and “sustainable” way to maintain a “healthy balance” between the Centro urchin population and the abalone population within valuable inshore reef habitat is to assist and support the commercial harvesting of Centro. In recent years, seafood processors are reporting heightened interest in Centro urchin roe in the China market and are keen to increase production to supply this developing market. The AIDF Centro subsidy provides direct financial assistance to (1) urchin exporters by enabling the provision of partially subsidized raw material, and (2) to urchin divers by augmenting their earnings from Centro harvesting activities. Partial subsidisation of Commercial Centro harvesting provides a short to medium-term mitigation measure that at the same time assists the growth of a “new” export industry for Tasmania.
From 2016 to 2018, the subsidy was 75 cents per kilo of Centro harvested (paid to urchin divers after they supplied product to urchin processors and provided the TACL with a copy of their catch dockets). The AIDF subsidy directly assisted the harvest of about 800,000 Centro urchins from Tasmania’s east coast between 2016 and 2018.
In 2019 following the establishment of the Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund (AIRF), payment of the Centro subsidy continued, but was funded via the AIRF rather than the AIDF.
The Centro harvest subsidy has significantly accelerated the commercial harvest of Centro from Tasmanian waters. The table below shows the annual harvest in tonnes from 2016/17 to 2020/21. Since 2016/17 there has been a ten-fold increase in annual harvest tonnages. IMAS underwater surveys have confirmed (supported with anecdotal evidence from urchin divers) that Centro populations in many parts of Tasmania’s east coast have receded and that there has been a concomitant improvement of inshore reef health and biodiversity with localised abalone and lobster populations increasing in size and density.