PETITION – Save East Coast Reefs

The Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly in Parliament assembled.

The petition of the under signed who are citizens of Tasmania wish to make the Members aware of a devastating problem in Tasmania’s east coast marine environment and call on the state government to urgently take action in response to it.

The Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies has found that the long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) has exploded in numbers and has destroyed 15% of all east coast reef habitats and more than 50% in parts of the north east. IMAS modelling predicts that 32% of east coast reefs will be destroyed by 2021 and this may rise to 50%.

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The long-spined sea urchin eats the critical kelp and sea weeds leaving ‘barrens’ which are largely devoid of other species. The creation of barrens causes a permanent loss to the marine biodiversity and eliminates fisheries, including recreational and commercial rock lobster and abalone fisheries.

While climate change has made conditions more favourable for long-spined sea urchins, a primary cause of this problem is decades of over fishing of rock lobster and the almost complete removal of rock lobsters large enough to feed upon and control urchins.

The petitioners call on the Minister for Primary Industries, Guy Barnett to take decisive action:

  • to protect the rocky reef habitats of Tasmania’s east coast;

  • to stop the spread of the long-spined sea urchin;

  • to protect the recreational and commercial rock lobster fisheries on the east coast.

In developing his response to this devastating problem the petitioners ask that the minister:

  1. Recognises the critical role that large rock lobsters (carapace length 140 mm and greater) have in controlling the long-spined sea urchins and take steps to increase the density of these large rock lobsters to the point where they can limit urchin barren expansion.

  2. Immediately takes effective action to protect Tasmania's marine environment and fisheries by preventing new barrens from forming.

  3. Support efforts to control sea urchins to rehabilitate reefs affected by urchin barrens.