St Helens, Tasmania

St Helens, Tasmania, was selected as the Southern Region case study because it has traditionally been known as a fishing town and retains a range of marine industry sectors.

St Helens is exposed to a number of climate pressures including the warm East Australian Current gradually extending further south along the east coast of Tasmania and increased intensity of rainfall events which causes flooding.

See Climate, sealife and other impacts for a detailed description of changes in St Helens.


Permanent population: approximately 3400 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

Summer population:  8000-20 000, including temporary holiday shack owners and tourists (anecdotal information).

Over 16% of the St Helens population was aged over 70 years in the 2011 Census while approximately 64% were working age (between 20 and 70 years). The percentage of working age residents declined between 2001 and 2006, presumably due to the uptake of employment in other locations. Approximately 28% of houses in St Helens are owned outright, which is around the same as the national average.

Tourism is an important activity in St Helens and supports retails sales (15.5% of employment), accommodation and tourism-related businesses. Accommodation (for tourism) was the second largest employer (approximately 12%) in Tasmania (Census 2011).

Commercial fishing

Employment in commercial fishing is declining in St Helens (2.97% of employment in 2011), however, the rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) and abalone (Haliotis spp) fisheries, in particular, are still important employers. Rock lobster and abalone from Tasmania had a gross value of production of over $162m in 2010.

Other fisheries target wrasse (Notolabrus spp.), banded morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis) and other species. The scallop (Pectin furnatus) was traditionally an important target species in St Helens but is no longer fished by local boats due to declining abundances, management changes and the siltation of the barway meaning large boats can no longer reach port.

The urchin factory, which processes the roe of the invasive species Centrostephanus rodgersii, has recently (2012) expanded and now employs 25 people from the St Helens area.

Recreational fishing

Recreational fishing is a popular pastime in St Helens for locals, tourists and holiday-shack owners. In total, 29.3% of Tasmanians participate in recreational fishing (Henry and Lyle 2003) and St Helens is likely to have a similar participation rate. Participation increases substantially during summer and the main target species include species such as flathead (Platycephalidae spp), black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri), mullet (Aldrichetta forsteri), striped trumpeter (Latris lineata) and tuna (Thunnus spp). Popular northern recreational species, including King George whiting (Sillaginodes punctata) and yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi), are being seen with increasing frequency as their ranges shift southwards.


Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) aquaculture is an important employer and industry (engenders tourist interest) in the St Helens community. Oyster aquaculture is water-based and further development prospects are limited by planning approvals.

In the 2011 census, 1.98% of employment in St Helens was in oyster aquaculture. These figures may underestimate current employment in the aquaculture industry.

Marine tourism

Inshore and offshore recreational charter fishing tours are available from St Helens and target popular recreational species. One local dive charter business is also in operation.