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Update to reference points and harvest advice for the commercial Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus californicus) Fishery in British Columbia

Regional Peer Review Process – Pacific Region

April 5-6, 2022
Virtual Meeting

Chairperson: Cher Lacoste


The Giant Red Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus californicus) fishery in British Columbia (BC) is managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) using a rotational triennial harvest of ~10% of current biomass in some Quota Management Areas and an annual harvest of 3.3-4.2% in others. This adaptive management strategy is based on recommendations in Hand et al. (2009), derived from analyses of harvest data, density survey data and experimental fishing area (EFA) data. Notably, Hand et al. (2009) developed a latent productivity model with estimates of maximum sustainable harvests using EFA data collected from 1998-2007. This experiment continued for another seven years and was discontinued in 2015, yielding a 17-year time series, of which only the first 10 years have been analysed to date.

Hand et al. (2009) also recommended reference points for the commercial Sea Cucumber fishery, in keeping with the DFO Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF); namely a Limit Reference Point (LRP) of 50% B0 (virgin biomass) and a potential range of 60-80% B0 for the Upper Stock Reference (USR). Although DFO began implementing the SFF in 2009, amendments to the Fisheries Act (Bill C-68) pertaining to sustainability have only been passed into legislation more recently (2019). The provisional Precautionary Approach (PA; DFO 2009) components for the commercial Sea Cucumber fishery proposed in Hand et al. (2009) have not been evaluated within the current assessment framework. Indeed, the resources required to monitor the many Sea Cucumber harvest areas (~200 subareas) at regular intervals are currently prohibitive.

DFO Fisheries Management has requested that Science Branch update the range of sustainable annual harvest rates, the LRP and a range for the USR, consistent with the Precautionary Approach (DFO 2009) for the commercial Sea Cucumber fishery. The assessment and advice arising from this Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) Regional Peer Review (RPR), will be used to inform fisheries management decisions to establish appropriate harvests for the commercial Sea Cucumber fishery. Several metrics of Sea Cucumber abundance will be considered in order to facilitate the development of reference points that can be used under current management measures and tailored to the coast wide multispecies benthic invertebrate monitoring program currently under development.


The following working paper will be reviewed and provide the basis for discussion and advice on the specific objectives outlined below.

Hajas, W., Hansen, S.C., and Lochead, J. Update to reference points and harvest advice for the commercial Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus californicus) fishery in British Columbia.CSAP Working Paper 2017INV01

The specific objectives of this review are to:

  1. Identify and apply any refinements or error corrections that can be made to the latent productivity model and the implementation of the model published in Hand et al. (2009).
  2. Achieve a probabilistic estimate of productivity as a function of current biomass using the revised model and:
    1. the full EFA dataset (1998-2015);
    2. the original 1998-2007 subset.

    Compare the results from the full and subset data to determine the impact of the additional years of data.

  3. Using the full EFA time series (1998-2015), update the range of recommended annual harvest rates identified in Hand et al. (2009).
  4. Using the full EFA time series (1998-2015), update the Limit Reference Point (LRP) and identify a range for the Upper Stock Reference (USR).
Examine and identify uncertainties in the data and methods.

Expected Publications

Expected Participation



Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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