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Science Response 2014/010

Review of Geoduck Hatchery Protocols Currently in Place for the Strait of Georgia and Evaluation of Potential Application to Other Coastal Areas in British Columbia


Aquaculture of the Pacific Geoduck (Panopea generosa) (herein referred to as “Geoduck”) has been underway in the Pacific Northwest since the early 1990s when Washington State began experimenting with Geoduck hatchery and seed grow-out techniques. In 1996, a federal/provincial pilot program for Geoduck aquaculture research and development was approved in British Columbia (BC) with the establishment of five subtidal aquaculture sites.

Potential impacts of subtidal Geoduck aquaculture on conservation of wild Geoduck populations and the harvestable Total Allowable Catch in BC were reviewed by Hand and Marcus (2004). Development of Geoduck aquaculture in BC was then restricted to the Strait of Georgia until more could be learned about Geoduck genetics and diseases and to allow the development of the regulatory framework. As part of a phased expansion in 2006, 11 new subtidal sites were offered for Geoduck aquaculture licence application in the Strait of Georgia.

Genetic and disease monitoring was identified by Hand and Marcus (2004) as an important component of understanding and mitigating potential impacts of Geoduck aquaculture on wild Geoduck populations. With the recognition that genetic mixing and disease transfer may occur between wild and cultured Geoduck, an internal Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) working group provided advice on interim protocols for brood stock collection, genetic sampling and disease reporting. DFO had no regulatory authority at that time to oversee the implementation of the recommended protocols as aquaculture regulatory authority rested with the BC Provincial government. In December 2010, DFO assumed control of aquaculture regulatory authority and licensing, following the BC Supreme Court directed transfer of administration and regulatory control of aquaculture in BC to the federal government.

With regulatory authority for Geoduck aquaculture now being a DFO responsibility and with interest in expanding Geoduck aquaculture beyond the Strait of Georgia, the Aquaculture Management Division has requested science advice on the following questions:

  1. Do operational standards in current Geoduck hatchery protocols ensure that risks and concerns around genetic mixing and disease transfer issues are adequately addressed and mitigated?
  2. Are the protocols relevant to, and mitigate risks of, an expanded aquaculture fishery beyond the Strait of Georgia?
  3. Do existing protocols need to be amended? If so, provide recommendations along with rationales for such changes.
  4. Under what scenarios would the collection of baseline samples, prior to out-planting of hatchery-reared stocks, be required and how would such a program be defined?

This report builds on past recommendations and makes additional recommendations to improve Geoduck brood stock collection and hatchery procedures. Genetic and disease-transfer concerns are described and measures to mitigate risks are proposed. An overview of practices used in other jurisdictions (Alaska and Washington State) is provided. Some of the current draft protocols address concerns around genetics and disease transfer. However, additional measures are recommended in order to mitigate the risks associated with Geoduck aquaculture.

This Science Response Report results from the Science Response Process of May 2013 on the Review of Geoduck Hatchery Protocols Currently in Place for the Strait of Georgia and Evaluation of Potential Application to Other Coastal Areas in British Columbia.

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