The profitability of Victoria's sea urchin industry has been boosted by changes to operating rules that will help to increase the volume harvested by commercial fishers and improve the efficiency of their operations.
Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) had worked closely with commercial fishers to develop new operating rules aimed at increasing the value and harvest amount of this small but promising industry.
The changes include amendments to permit conditions and a new Code of Practice that enable sea urchins to be processed at sea.
"The Victorian sea urchin fishery, centred on East Gippsland and Port Phillip Bay, is currently low volume but there is potential for it to develop as a high-value boutique industry," Mr Walsh said.
"As sea urchins are harvested by hand, there is no unintentional catch of other species and negligible physical impact to marine ecosystems, so this is a great opportunity to boost the commercial value of the resource with little or no environmental impact.
"These changes will be complemented by further co-operative efforts between DPI and the industry to develop more secure and efficient management arrangements," Mr Walsh said.
Sea urchin roe is a highly prized delicacy in many cultures, but the fishery is labour intensive due to the need for urchins to be harvested by hand.
Eastern Zone Sea Urchin Industry Association executive officer Geoff Ellis said the development of the industry was a 'win win' and would help sustain abalone production in areas where there is competition with growing urchin populations.
"It is hard to find opportunities for new and developing fishing industries, however, the sea urchin industry has terrific growth potential domestically and in the longer term with overseas markets," Mr Ellis said.
"On behalf of industry, I welcome these developments and look forward to working with DPI in future to help grow this niche industry."
For more information on these changes, please visit www.dpi.vic.gov.au/fishiers/commercialfishing