A Phased-Development Approach in the British Columbia Sea Cucumber Fishery

A Phased-Development Approach in the British Columbia Sea Cucumber Fishery

Dominique Bureau and Claudia Hand

A Phased-Development Approach in the British Columbia Sea Cucumber FisheryThis is part of Fisheries Assessment and Management in Data-Limited Situations
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The sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) fishery has existed in British Columbia (BC) since 1980 under an arbitrary management regime. Although there were no indications of serious stock decline, the fishery was reviewed in 1995 due to a lack of biological data upon which to base management decisions. Following a review of available information on the biology, distribution, and productivity of sea cucumbers, new management restrictions were imposed in 1997. In the absence of abundance and life-history data from BC stocks, conservative estimates of density and productivity from studies conducted in Alaska and Washington state were used to calculate quotas for the BC fishery. The existing arbitrary quota in BC was maintained, but over only 25% of the total coastline. One half of the coastline was closed to harvest until sufficient knowledge had accumulated to permit informed management. Experimental fisheries, designed to investigate stock response to varying harvest rates, are being conducted in the remaining 25% of the coast. Abundance surveys are being conducted in open fishery areas as well. These projects are only possible through the strong cooperation with the commercial industry and First Nation stakeholders. Funds generated by the sale of experimentally fished product are used to fund the field activities and salary for a biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Four experimental fisheries are under way and are nearing the halfway mark of the planned 10-year time frame. Eight density surveys have been conducted over 30% of the area that is open to commercial fishing. Early results of these investigations are discussed.

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