Evaluation of genetic structuring of California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) across transfer zones in British Columbia



As part of how Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regulates the aquaculture industry in British Columbia, the introduction and transfer of fish and shellfish into and between facilities is regulated so that these transfers do not adversely affect local aquatic species and habitats. The process for evaluating requests for introductions and transfers to and from aquaculture facilities includes an application that is reviewed by a federal and provincial committee that assesses the risks for possible disease, ecological, and genetic effects on native species and ecosystems, and to ensure that the requirements of s. 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations are met. As a result of this assessment, there may be a requirement for mitigation measures to minimize risks associated with transfer activities (e.g., egg disinfection, quarantine of stock).

In British Columbia, there are five distinct shellfish transfer zones (STZs) that span the Pacific Region (see map). These zones are used to manage the movement of cultured shellfish to prevent gene flow between cultured and wild populations, and to manage the transfer of potential parasites/pathogens. Introducing or translocating cultured individuals can lead to gene flow with wild populations, and can result in a loss of genetic variation or adaptive genes found in the wild populations. Therefore, understanding the spatial scales at which shellfish populations are genetically distinct can help to optimize the boundaries of STZs to meet both ecological and socio-economic objectives.

Currently, an Introductions and Transfers Licence is required both for between and within zone transfer activities of sea cucumbers in British Columbia. The present study will assess the genetic structure of the California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus), and compare the location of genetic discontinuities with current STZ boundaries. More broadly, information on their genetic structure will also contribute important spatial information for informing fisheries management and the design of Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks. The results of this project will contribute to science advice that can be used to enhance the scientific basis for shellfish transfer zones and the sustainable management of the shellfish aquaculture industry.





Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)


2015 - 2017


Pacific: North Coast and Hecate Strait

Principal Investigator(s)

Janelle Curtis
Research Scientist, Pacific Biological Station
3190 Hammond Bay Rd., Nanaimo, British Columbia
Email: Janelle.Curtis@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Team Member(s)

Nicholas Duprey

Chris Pearce

Dan Curtis

Collaborative Partner(s)

Marie-Josée Fortin, University of Toronto, ON

Amanda Xuereb, University of Toronto, ON

Louis Bernatchez, Université Laval, QC