Periwinkles exhibit patchy distributions, forming large localised aggregations that are easily harvested. Comparatively little is known about factors that influence this aggregating behaviour or general variability in abundance. Furthermore, spatial variability in growth rates, size at maturity and variation in size are not known. This lack of information on the biology, population structure and behavioural characteristics of the periwinkle continues to hinder prospects to optimise the fishery potential for the species in Tasmania.
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) is bound by the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 to ensure that fisheries are managed in a sustainable manner. However, with the lack of available data the Department has adopted a precautionary approach to guide it in setting annual catch limits. Furthermore, the minimum size limit that applies for the species has no scientific grounding and thus there is no surety that it provides adequate protection to enable individuals to breed prior to being recruited into the fishery.
Commercial Dive Fishery representatives have also identified the need for an assessment of market supply and demand relationships in order to improve economic returns. Several states harvest periwinkles, with Melbourne and Sydney the main domestic markets, meaning that the Tasmanian fishery competes in a national context.
There is strong support from managers and industry for the proposed research which will inform the management and guide the future development of the fishery. The engagement of management and industry stakeholders as part of the project team is a strategy that ensures that the outputs will be adopted. The Minor Fisheries Research Advisory Group has identified the need to better understand population structure and distribution of periwinkles as its highest priority.