The Tasmanian commercial dive fishery is a growing fishery that selectively harvests three key species by hand from small vessels. The fishery has traditionally harvested two native species – short-spined sea urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma) and periwinkles (Lunella undulata) – but has grown exponentially in recent years by increasingly targeting the range-extended long-spined sea urchin species, Centrostephanus rodgersii.
The fishery has been operating since the mid-1980s, was formalised with a management plan in 2005, and remains predominately owner-operated today with around 53 licences.
Managing the fishery
The Commercial Dive Fishery is managed under the
Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and
Fisheries (Commercial Dive) Rules 2021.
Recreational bag and possession limits do not apply to urchins or periwinkles.
Commercial limits do not apply to long-spined sea urchin.
Commercial limits do apply to native short-spined sea urchin and periwinkles. Minimum size limits ensure animals can spawn at least twice before they enter the fishery, and a total allowable catch (TAC) per species is divided across the five Commercial Dive Zones to spread fishing effort. Once a TAC is reached, that zone is closed for the remainder of the licensing year.
Visit the Catch and Closure page for current catch and closure updates for all species.
Periwinkles, also known locally as warrener or turbo, are native marine whelks that inhabit the Tasmanian intertidal zone.
Periwinkles have a strong muscular foot and thick shells with brilliant banding ranging in colour from bright green to brown and yellow.
Periwinkles are marketed live to be fresh cooked by the consumer, and the flesh is firm with a mild salty flavour.
Harvest peak: August to November
Short-spined sea urchin, Heliocidaris erythrogramma
The short-spined sea urchin is native and endemic to Tasmania where they perform important ecological functions.
The urchin has short solid spines, and is coloured purple, green or white. The colour can change across the test and spines.
The roe, also called uni, has a delicate favour and is highly prized in Asian markets where it attracts a considerable price.
Harvest peak: July to February
Long-spined sea urchin, Centrostephanus rodgersii
The long-spined sea urchin is a range extended species that has established locally. Urchin larvae arrive from NSW on the East Australian Current and settle all along the east coast of Tasmania.
This highly adaptable urchin thrives in the cool clean waters of Tasmania, where it has few predators beyond large lobsters. Their voracious appetite strips the seafloor of plant life, leaving barrens that can stretch for hectares. The urchins can survive in barrens, but the loss of food and habitat poses a real threat to other marine species, ecosystems, and key fisheries like abalone and rock lobster.
The urchin is identifiable by long spines that are half the length of the test diameter. Colours vary from dark brown to black, with a turquoise-like sheen on the spines and red down the centre.
They produce double the amount of roe as their native counterpart, in excess of 10% of their body weight, with a robust flavour and uniform yellow colour. Considerable investment in recent years has opened new markets for both the edible roe, and the urchin test/spines which can be processed into nutrient-rich fertiliser, resulting in a low waste fishery.
Harvesting peak: January to July
Commercial Dive Policy Paper 2011 (PDF 87Kb)
Final arrangements for 2021-2022 Commercial Dive licensing year (PDF 374Kb)
Instrument of exemption - Take Centro from research areas Elephant Rock North Bay (PDF 62Kb)
Long spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus) IMAS Research
FRDC project 2017-033: Fisheries biology of short-spined sea urchins