Longspined Sea Urchin (2020)

Centrostephanus rodgersii

  • Katie Cresswell (University of Tasmania)
  • Rowan C. Chick (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Klaas Hartmann (University of Tasmania)

Date Published: June 2021

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Over recent decades, the Longspined Sea Urchin has extended its range southwards to VIC and TAS, reflecting the increasing influence of the south-flowing Eastern Australian Current in those latitudes. At high densities, Longspined Sea Urchins can damage kelp habitats through overgrazing, leading some jurisdictions to pursue urchin removal programs. Longspined Sea Urchin stock structure is uncertain and management arrangements differ across jurisdictions, so this assessment is presented at the jurisdictional level. Longspined Sea Urchin are classified as sustainable in NSW, TAS and VIC.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Victoria Victoria Sustainable

Catch, effort, CPUE trends

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Stock Structure

Over the last several decades the Longspined Sea Urchin, Centrostephanus rodgersii, has undergone a range extension to Victoria and Tasmania from NSW due to extensions in the warm East Australia Current brought about by climate change [Johnson et al. 2005, Ridgway 2007, Ling 2008].

The strength of connectivity between regions and the species' capacity for self-recruitment at the extremes of its distribution remain poorly understood and are currently under investigation as part of an FRDC project "Larval dispersal for Southern Rock Lobster and Longspined Sea Urchin to support management decisions".

Understanding Longspined Sea Urchin population structure has been of particular importance as high urchin densities can damage kelp forests through overgrazing [Ling et al. 2009, Johnson et al. 2011, Marzloff et al. 2016] and this has resulted in notable habitat changes in areas of range extension. Due to this impact and the range-extending nature of this species, management measures are being actively pursued to decrease the population density in some jurisdictions.

Due to limited knowledge regarding stock structure and different jurisdictional management objectives this species is assessed here at the jurisdictional level—New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria.

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Stock Status



The Longspined Sea Urchin fishery is confined to the Eastern Zone, extending from east of the coastal port of Lakes Entrance to the Victorian–NSW border. An assessment in 2019 found that landings and fishing effort had both showed an increasing trend in recent years since a low in the 2015 quota year [Conron et al. 2020].

CPUE has remained very stable at ~175 kg/hr for the last four quota years with a slight decrease over the last year [Conron et al. 2020]. However, CPUE is likely to be more reflective of the availability of urchins with roe of marketable quality rather than the species' abundance as a whole. This is illustrated by an increase in abundance of about 80 per cent observed from fishery independent surveys over the same period following a decrease (probably as a result of targeted urchin reduction programs to mitigate range expansion and restore kelp habitat from barrens) of about one third over the preceding two years [Conron et al. 2020]. This species is very abundant on barrens in deeper waters, however, commercial fishing effort is typically focused in shallower areas and where kelp habitat transitions to barrens. 

Catch, effort, and CPUE trends for this species are largely reflective of market demand and can be influenced by changes in the availability of urchins with marketable roe. As such, it is possible that the fishery could reach maximum production (i.e. catch as many urchins with marketable roe as is financially viable) without posing a risk to the stock as a whole [Conron et al. 2020]. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. The above evidence also indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

Based on the available evidence the Eastern Victorian Longspined sea urchin is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Longspined Sea Urchin

25–30 years

4–5 years 

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Fishing methods
Commercial 59.37t

New South Wales – Indigenous https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing


Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

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Catch Chart

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  1. Andrew, NL, Worthington, DG, Brett, PA, Bentley, N, Chick, RC and Blount, C 1998, Interactions between the abalone fishery and sea urchins in New South Wales. NSW Fisheries Research Institute. Cronulla, Australia. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project No. 93/102. NSW Fisheries Final Report Series No.12. ISN 1440-3544.
  2. Blount, C, Chick, RC and Worthington, DG, 2017, Enhancement of an underexploited fishery – Improving the yield and colour of roe in the sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii by reducing density or transplanting individuals. Fisheries Research 186, 586-597.
  3. Byrne, M, Andrew, NL, Worthington, DG and Brett, PA, 1998, Reproduction in the diadematoid sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii in contrasting habitats along the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Marine Biology 132, 305-318.
  4. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp.
  5. Cresswell, K, Hartmann, K., Gardner, C., Keane, J. Tasmanian Longspined sea urchin fishery assessment 2018/19
  6. Cresswell, K. A., J. P. Keane, E. Ogier, and S. Yamazaki. 2019. Centrostephanus subsidy program: initial evaluation. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania.
  7. Edgar, G. J., and N. S. Barrett. 1997. Short term monitoring of biotic change in Tasmanian marine reserves. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 213:261-279
  8. Glasby, TM and Gibson PT, 2020, Decadal dynamics of subtidal barrens habitat. Marine Environmental Research 154, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2019.104869
  9. Henry, GW and Lyle JM, 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey. Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hobart. FRDC 99/158.
  10. Johnson, C. R., S. C. Banks, N. S. Barrett, F. Cazassus, P. K. Dunstan, G. J. Edgar, S. D. Frusher, C. Gardner, M. Haddon, F. Helidoniotis, K. L. Hill, N. J. Holbrook, G. W. Hosie, P. R. Last, S. D. Ling, J. Melbourne-Thomas, K. Miller, G. T. Pecl, A. J. Richardson, K. R. Ridgway, S. R. Rintoul, D. A. Ritz, D. J. Ross, J. C. Sanderson, S. A. Shepherd, A. Slotvvinski, K. M. Swadling, and N. Taw. 2011. Climate change cascades: Shifts in oceanography, species' ranges and subtidal marine community dynamics in eastern Tasmania. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 400:17-32.
  11. Johnson, C. R., S. D. Ling, J. Ross, S. Shepherd, and K. Miller. 2005. Establishment of the longspined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) in Tasmania: first assessment of potential threats to fisheries. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
  12. Ling, S. D. 2008. Range expansion of a habitat-modifying species leads to loss of taxonomic diversity: a new and impoverished reef state. Oecologia 156:883-894.
  13. Ling, S. D., and J. P. Keane. 2018. Resurvey of Longspined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) and associated barren reef in Tasmania. Hobart.
  14. Ling, S. D., C. R. Johnson, S. D. Frusher, and K. R. Ridgway. 2009a. Overfishing reduces resilience of kelp beds to climate-driven catastrophic phase shift. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106:22341-22345.
  15. Marzloff, M. P., L. R. Little, and C. R. Johnson. 2016. Building Resilience Against Climate Driven Shifts in a Temperate Reef System: Staying Away from Context-Dependent Ecological Thresholds. Ecosystems 19:1-15.
  16. Murphy, J.J., Ochwada-Doyle, F.A., West, L.D., Stark, K.E. and Hughes, J.M., 2020. The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  17. Ridgway, K. R. 2007. Long-term trend and decadal variability of the southward penetration of the East Australian Current. Geophysical Research Letters 34
  18. Underwood, AJ, Kingsford, MJ and Andrew, NL, 1991, Patterns in shallow subtidal marine assemblages along the coast of New South Wales. Aust. J. Ecol. 16: 231-249.
  19. West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14. Fisheries Final Report Series No. 149.
  20. Worthington, DG and Blount, C, 2003, Research to develop and manage the sea urchin fisheries of NSW and eastern Victoria. FRDC Project No. 1999/128. NSW Fisheries Final Report Series No. 56. ISSN 1440-3544.

Downloadable reports

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