Fisheries Victoria Executive Director Ross McGowan said the new system would give urchin fishers greater security and confidence to invest in their businesses and to develop local and overseas markets.
“The edible part of the sea urchin, the urchin roe, is a highly prized delicacy in overseas markets, particularly in Japan,” Mr McGowan said.
“The sea urchin fishery is a high value niche fishery with the potential to grow as local consumer and export markets become aware of the quality product Victoria has to offer.
“The sea urchin fishery in Victoria has been operating as a ‘developing fishery’ since 1998 under short term permits.
“To grow their businesses the fishers have indicated to us they would like the greater security of access which a licensing and quota system provides.
“For this reason, on August 1, following consultation with industry, the Victorian Government introduced a new management regime to support this potential.
“Sound management will ensure the long-term sustainability, economic efficiency and cost effective management of the sea urchin fishery.”
Sea urchins in Victoria will continue to be harvested by diving in Port Phillip Bay and eastern Victoria.
“The Government has set sustainable catch limits of 60 tonnes per year of sea urchin in Port Phillip Bay and 171 tonnes per year in eastern Victoria,” Mr McGowan said.
Port Phillip Bay sea urchin fisher Bruce Cronin said he was delighted his permit was converted to a licence, the first issued under the new scheme.
“This is an excellent result, providing businesses with confidence to invest,” Mr Cronin said.
Mr McGowan said fishers will report their catch volumes via a purpose-designed smartphone App to help with monitoring of catch to ensure sustainability and cost effective enforcement.
This new technology, expected to be in operation in time for the peak fishing season, will also reduce the burden on fishers by removing the need to complete paper logbooks.