OceanWatch in partnership with the Abalone Association NSW has been working on reef enhancement on the NSW south coast. This program seeks to control populations of the long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) which have fed voraciously on marine vegetation. The urchin barrens that form as a result of this pose a threat to biodiversity levels and can undermine profitable harvesting of commercial species.
The long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) is native to Australia’s eastern coastline, inhabiting rocky reefs and coastal waters up to depths of 30m in NSW, Victoria and recent decades populations have expanded southward into Tasmanian waters. The long-spined sea urchin is crucial for maintaining healthy, functioning coastal ecosystems, and in many areas healthy populations are naturally maintained. Removing urchins from the wrong area, or the targeting of the incorrect species could have detrimental impacts on the marine ecosystem.
For this project commercial divers, with knowledge of the biology the long-spined sea urchin, have been working to reduce urchin numbers at 4 sites on the NSW south coast. The project aims to improve remaining urchin roe quality, encourage seaweed and increase the overall biodiversity within the site. Diving began at some of the sites late last year and continues into 2021, already there has been noticeable recovery seaweed of at some of the sites and reductions in the density of urchins.
This project is supported by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.