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MEDIA RELEASE: Standing room only last night in Hobart as 90 members of the Clark electorate gathered to hear from scientists, government and the abalone industry about tackling the Long-spined sea urchin issue

It was a packed house last night at Shambles Brewery, Hobart last night for Environment Tasmania’s "science in the pub" event exploring the pressing issue of the Long-spined sea urchins (Centrostephanus rodgersii) and their devastating impact on Tasmania's east coast reefs. 


This invasive species has become a significant concern for marine ecologists, conservationists, and local communities alike due to their appetite for kelp, which form crucial ecosystems supporting marine biodiversity.


Speakers last night included Dr John Keane and Dr Scott Ling from IMAS who explored Long-spined sea urchin physiology and the pattern of their spread southward due to warming waters and a strengthening of the East Australian Current. Joey McKibben of the Tasmanian Abalone Council spoke of their initiative to tackle the invasive sea urchin issue head on by using the Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund to create the commercial Long-spined sea urchin industry in partnership with the Tasmanian government. Sharna Rainer from the department of Natural Resources and Environment spoke on this partnership.


Joey McKibben of the Tasmanian Abalone Council said:


"The AIRF (Abalone Industry Re-Investment Fund) was established 8 years ago to ensure monies from abalone royalty payments were spent on abalone research.  The advent of the Centro threat meant that a significant amount of these funds was directed to Centro research and control, and continues to be so.


The policy of the industry, government and IMAS – working together - has been one of containment, as it was quickly determined that eradication was simply not feasible.  An industry has now been established to produce urchin roe, but diving subsidies are still required to take urchin from areas where commercial quantities are absent but the need for containment is paramount.  


The AIRF has been central to the effectiveness of this policy, but requires a continuing government commitment."


Rebecca Howarth, Marine Campaigner for Environment Tasmania said:

"The Long-spined sea urchin is a devastating threat to the health of Tasmania's incredibly diverse reef systems. This event explored not only the science behind the physiology and origin of this invasive species, but also the collaborative nature of the the solutions being sought by the Abalone Industry, IMAS and NRE. We would like to see the government commit to expanding the resources available to tackle the Long-spined sea urchin, and to extend this collaborative, ecosystem-based approach to all areas of marine management."


Healthy oceans means healthy communities. Environment Tasmania runs “science in the pub” events to explore topics like the issue of the Long-spined sea urchin, and what IMAS scientists and the Abalone Council are doing about it. Environment Tasmania is advocating for a Marine Plan for Tasmania as a positive, collaborative solution to a multitude of ocean issues.



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