Local abalone populations can be severely depleted by a range of impacts, including loss of habitat from the spread of sea urchins, diseases such as AVG and Perkinsus, environmental change and theft. Many of these impacts have been increasing for over a decade, although impacts of sea urchins on abalone and reef habitats in the last 5 years have been spreading in eastern Victoria, and appear related to climate change. Similarly, impacts remain from the spread of AVG through western Victoria.
There is evidence that production from commercial abalone fisheries continues to be reduced by the ongoing increase in external impacts to local abalone populations. While tools have been developed at a small-scale to help recover abalone populations, there is a strong need to investigate, implement and assess these at a larger scale to be able to minimise further impacts and recover productivity of abalone populations.
VicFRAB this year rated its highest priority to facilitate the investigation of translocating abalone to address declines caused by urchins and disease. Similarly, the NSW DPI strategic research plan identifies a priority to "determine methods to restore depleted reefs of abalone through techniques such as transplants, habitat rehabilitation and reseeding". The ACA Strategic Plan also details actions to plan and support remedial action to reduce the impact of pests, disease and theft on abalone.
The ongoing spread of impacts to local abalone populations is having a broad impact on shallow reef habitats. Small-scale research has demonstrated the potential of recovery techniques, but have not been implemented at a broad scale to actually attempt to recover lost productivity. This project will address the need to investigate the scaling up of recovery techniques, and their costs and long-term benefits, in an attempt to recovery lost productivity from abalone populations in south east Australia.