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United against the urchin front in East Gippsland

Wednesday 16 May, 2018


A recent volunteer operation was conducted by Parks Victoria, Friends of Beware Reef and other volunteers, including a local Abalone diver, who united to tackle a spiny problem in East Gippsland.

With a stronger East Australian current, the native Black-spined Urchin, Centrostephanus rodgersii, over the last decade has expanded from its historic range from NSW as far as Wilsons Promontory and east coast of Tasmania.

At Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary, offshore from Marlo in East Gippsland thousands of these urchins are now devouring kelp and other algae, creating bare areas of reef called “urchin barrens”.

The over-abundant urchins have a significant impact on many of the park’s animals and plants. In the same way that forests on land provide homes and food for many smaller plants and animals, underwater forests of kelp and algae are important habitats that provide marine life with food and shelter.

The diving operation involved Parks Victoria rangers and volunteers spending two days in the Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary to first survey the density of the urchins and then culling them safely on-site using hand-tools.

Over the two days, the group successfully culled over 2500 urchins, a great achievement which is reflective of the incredible teamwork by all involved.

Getting out and about in nature is a great way to spend your spare time and with it being National Volunteer Week next week (21-27 May), why not become a Parks Victoria volunteer?

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Friends of Beware reef, please call 13 1963.

Quotes attributable to local Parks Victoria Ranger Team Leader Mike Irvine  

“Urchin barrens are a new issue in Victoria. We don’t really know what is causing it but action to control them is vital before they seriously affect the ecosystems”

“It is fantastic to see members of the professional abalone industry volunteering their time to assist with environmental management.”

Quotes attributable to Friends of Beware Reef Don Love (Volunteer)

“The Friends group is passionate about preserving a healthy ecosystem in the Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary. We are all working together and doing our bit to help.”


Media enquiries
Melanie McVey-Di Lazzaro
0459 818 451

Parks Victoria media centre