A trial is being launched to test the viability of farming sea urchins on land.

Sea urchin roe from wild fisheries is in high demand in overseas markets, but overpopulation of the urchins is reducing the quality of the roe.

Daniel Rabu with the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association says a new feed has been developed that has been proven to fatten low-value urchins in order to produce better roe. “We wanted to explore whether or not we could provide urchin roe on a more consistent basis, of a higher quality throughout the year.”

He says for the trial, he’s purchasing the low-value urchins from the commercial fishery. “I would pay them a fair price – the same price they’d get for high-quality urchins,” says Rabu.

The urchins will then be taken to a land-based hatchery and then fed the new feed. “And after 12 weeks hopefully harvest them and demonstrate that the quality of the urchin roe has increased and the quantity has increased,” says Rabu.

Rabu says the ultimate goal of the trial would be to provide high quality roe, while also supporting the commercial fishery and helping to reduce the overpopulation of urchins on the coast.