Project number: 2019-128
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $199,996.00
Principal Investigator: Nigel Swarts
Organisation: University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Project start/end date: 1 Nov 2020 - 29 Aug 2023


The primary need of this project is to facilitate a profitable Longspined Sea Urchin fishery to move the industry away from subsidies. A large-scale sustainable fishery is seen as the most feasible and sustainable way to apply downward pressure on the rapidly expanding Sea Urchin population in Tasmania. Longspined Sea Urchin populations have grown to some 20 million (5,500 tonnes) and have resulted in 15% of the Tasmania East Coast reefs becoming unproductive urchin barren, up from 3% 15 years ago.

Subsides for the Longspined Sea Urchin harvest commenced in 2016 and in the last 3 years some $500,000 has been spent. This initiated significant investment in the industry to facilitate export market establishment and resulted the 2019 harvest reaching an excess of 550 tonnes, now Tasmania’s 3rd largest wild fishery by weight. However, the industry needs to move away from subsides and waste utilisation is seen a viable option to turn a current financial cost (estimated at $80,000 in 2019 to dump 400 tonnes of waste generated) into an income stream.

FRDC 2016-208 highlighted the significant potential of sea urchin waste utilisation in the agricultural industry and called for commercial upscaling of trials. This project is designed to meet that need. Based on this, the Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund (AIRF) has committed to providing $538,686 in kind to initiate the project. This whole of project application is to allow multi-season agricultural trials of waste products to obtain scientifically and industry meaningful results, allow testing on perennial crops (such as cherries) and to employ a dedicated post-doctoral researcher on the project.

In the push for sustainably produced food, agricultural industries are demanding alternative nutritional sources to synthetic fertilisers. Urchin waste is comprised of two major parts: gut waste - a nitrogenous rich liquid which can be converted in a stable drench or spray and; shell waste – a calcium and boron rich solid which can be dried and powdered for use as a soil ameliorant. As such this fisheries enhancement project will additionally for fill this agricultural need.


1. To develop commercial scale processing equipment of sea urchin waste.
2. Determine the nutrient composition and plant bioavailability of nutrients from two high throughput waste streams: liquid gut waste and dried powdered shell waste
3. Evaluate the agronomic benefits of liquid gut waste as a frost retardant in perennial tree cropping (cherries)
4. Evaluate the agronomic benefits of powdered shell waste as a soil ameliorant in a wide range of annual and perennial cropping systems
5. Undertake a cost benefit analysis comparing fertiliser products (foliar sprays and/or soil conditioners) from this work to other products on the market to assess if the products are commercially viable

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