Sea Urchin Harvesters Association 

We have luckily dodged the last bullet of proposed counterproductive regulations. The Peer Review did not endorse the CDFG Draft Plan. But it did not endorse the status quo, either.
CDFG is committed to work with our industry collegially to formulate any new regulatory changes. We have a great opportunity now to establish a cooperative framework for the future. We can establish a good management system if we are reasonable, constructive, and united.
l. UNITED. That means we should settle our differences among ourselves and present a united position to CDFG, to the Fish and Game Commission, to our legislators, and to the public. We need to put peer pressure on our members to work through our established channels: DSUAC, SUPAC, and now SUHAC (which is the diver organization recognized by CDFG).
It hurts all of us when members who are uninformed (due to not participating in our intramural deliberations) go to DSUAC meetings, CDFG Commission, legislators, and blow a lot of precious high-level time spouting off about stuff that’s already been well-covered. We need to get a collective grip, and those who grasp it need to put some major heat on the clueless. Loose torpedoes can sink the ship we’re all sailing on. CDFG and legislators have worked with our industry in the past when we’re cohesive. When we’re not, they treat us the way we deserve: like undisciplined children.
2. CONSTRUCTIVE. We need to optimize our resource. That means we need to manage it to maximize sustained yield for the long term, allocate production so that prices are maximized for what we do produce, and keep pushing for enhancement programs. I think we have a good track record here.
3. REASONABLE. Our management system is very good, but it still needs work and improvement. Stonewalling will be counterproductive. The Peer Review deliberately exceeded its mandate to say our industry needs strong management. That doesn’t necessarily mean more restrictive rules. It means we need to get some sound science which will either validate what we are doing or show us what should be changed.
We propose that the industry organizations establish an industry-wide urchin task force (UTF):
Who Is On It:
The officers and regional representatives of SUHAC, the officers of SUPAC, and the industry members of DSUAC.
How It Works:
SUPAC and SUHAC will nominate DSUAC representstives who will agree to attend UTF meetings and faithfully uphold its mandates in the DSUAC meetings. The SUPAC and SUHAC members of the UTF in turn will represent and support the mandates of their respective constituencies, as determined after due discussion and deliberation. The UTF will always convene prior to DSUAC meetings and work out collective industry policy.
Diver and Processor Issues.
Some issues affect only divers or only processors, and diver/processor goals may potentially conflict. In such cases, their respective positions would be reflected by SUHAC and its diver representatives on DSUAC, or by SUPAC and processor representatives on DSUAC. The Task Force is intended to deal with policy issues in which divers and processors share a common and unifying interest. That would include most DSUAC business over the last several years.
North and South Issues.
Many divers and processors agree that some changes in our closure days should be made, and many feel that closures should be different for North and South. Diving is usually most lucrative in the South from September to February, and in the North from December to May. Closure days are intended both to mitigate effort and optimize value, so closure days should reflect the regional differences. Also, dive days need to be bunched in the South, where 2 day trips are common; but they might be constructively spread out more in the North, where day trips are the norm and weather is more erratic. Other regional concerns may arise.
Northern members of the UTF would form a Northern Task Force, and Southern members a Southern Task Force, for regional work. UTF will co-ordinate and support the regional programs.
What To Do Now.
SUPAC and SUHAC need to discuss this proposal, and if they accept and endorse it (perhaps in modified form — for instance, with “delegates” chosen by SUHAC and SUPAC), then the UTF will be up and running.
There will be a new DSUAC as of 1996, with at least some new members. It will be constructive if SUHAC and SUPAC make organizational nominations for diver and processor representatives to DSUAC — and make sure the nominees agree to reflect the consensus positions of their various areas represented: eg, home port area, SUHAC, UTF, for divers; region and SUPAC for processors. Organizational nominations carry more weight than individual ones and are less likely to be ignored.
One topic that should be discussed early by all industry groups is the desirability of having DSUAC hire a scientific fishery management adviser. Industry members of the Peer Review Subcommittee all believe we need this. The adviser would serve industry and CDFG jointly. We just spent almost two years struggling to avert a disastrously bad management plan. We got rid of the bad plan, for the time being, but not its author. We need to get somebody to evaluate and/or recommend policy who is scientifically competent and not hostile to our industry. There ARE such people.
The Peer Review deliberately exceeded its mandate to say that working with minimum size limits may be the most efficient and cost-effective way to regulate the urchin fishery. This is a position that has been warmly endorsed by our industry for some time, and it partially vindicates our approach.
The Peer Review pointed out also, however, that the specific size limits in place now are a scientific “shot in the dark”. They may be OK, but they need scientific scrutiny, and some basic research questions need answering, such as: how fast do urchins grow?, when do they start to reproduce?, how important is canopy to survival?, what are the geographic spawning origins?, among other things. Our present management system is in the right direction, but it needs to be put on a more scientific basis.
The Peer Review also pointed out that the resource surveys performed by CDFG at considerable expense may be a misguided effort. An objective outside scientific fishery management adviser would help us evaluate and prioritize our research and data collection needs so that we could allocate our limited funds more efficiently. Ultimately, the adviser could help us put our management system on a sounder basis.
Although the scientific management adviser would serve CDFG and industry jointly (that ie: DSUAC), I believe that industry could reasonably require that whoever is hired by DSUAC in such an advisory capacity would have to show a demonstrable interest in market-related management considerations, and a demonstrable sympathy toward resource enhancement projects.
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Overall evaluation of the scientific basis for the California Department of Fish and Game
draft of a commercial sea urchin fishery management plan.

                     	Evaluation Committee
                           Tom Ebert (chair)
                           John DeMartini
                           Sus Kato
                           Dan Reed

    The following summary represents the consensus views of the evaluation committee. 
Details are presented in the individual evaluations from each committee member and these
evaluations together with their individual summaries should be examined in detail in order
to understand the basis for conclusions.

     The committee members all agree that available information indicates that there has
been a depression of sea urchin stocks since fishing began and that something needs to be 
done in order to maintain a viable fishery. This conclusion is based on catch statistics, 
surveys conducted by the California Department of  Fish and Game, anecdotal information 
concerning sea urchin distribution and abundance changes from the 1970's through the 1980's,
and estimates of longevity, growth-rates , and recruitment. The committee members agree 
that how catch statistics have been recorded is a problem but that corrections of these 
problems would not change the general conclusion that the stock or stocks are declining.

     Evaluating processes that contribute to the long~term well being of a species that is
being exploited is not simple and, indeed, some aspects of the sea urchin fishery are, at 
present, unknowable. For example, there are no currently available techniques that can 
trace connections among sites where spawning takes place and sites where settlement occurs. 
The best that can be done at present is to explore the consequences of different patterns of 
connection through modeling.

     There are some important aspects of the sea urchin fishery that could be explored in 
much greater  detail than have been done up until now.
  	Evaluation of the current status of the sea urchin stock or stocks could be done 
with available techniques; however, it also is very expensive. Based on details that were 
provided, the stratified sampling design used by the California Department of Fish and Game
should be relatively bias free. This design employed selection of sites based on mile 
markers and locations within sites based on several depths. Our impression is that, given 
extreme budgetary constraints, the California Department of Fish and Game has done an 
appropriate job with surveys. There also is no doubt that more surveys are desperately 
needed, over many more years, and to include the rest of the coast.

	There also are relatively inexpensive studies that could be done to answer specific
question raised by the management plan. For example, the proposed allee effect that is the 
basis for proposing a maximum size limit has never been rigorously tested but could be.

	The committee members all agree that currently there is no scientific basis for 
selecting a specific management plan. Total allowable catch, specific size limits, refugia,
and fishing seasons can now withstand rigorous examination. In particular, the Leslie model
seems inappropriate for determining the state of the resource. However, there is need for 
a management strategy in order to preserve the fishery. Although it was not within the 
charge given to the committee, nevertheless, the committee members consider that they would
be remiss if they did not present their view that a plan based on minimum size limits may 
be the most cost effective and enforceable method for managing the sea urchin resource in 
California; however, details still require further work.

	The committee members thank the California Department of Fish and Game and 
representatives of the sea urchin harvesters for their interest in obtaining an external
scientific review. We hope that our observations, analyses, and comments will contribute
to improved relations between all elements or resource users and management and, in the 
process, to the developement of a sustained sea urchin fishery in California.

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Sea Grant Extension Program Publication

Sea urchins are members of a large group of marine invertebrates in the phylum Echinodermata (spiny skinned animals), that also include starfish, sea cucumbers, sea lilies, and brittle stars (Kato and Schroeter, 1985; Turgeon, et al., 1988). All sea urchins have a hard calcareous shell called a test, which is covered with a thin epithelium and is usually armed with spines. The spines are used for locomotion, protection, and for trapping drifting algae for food. Between the spines, are tube feet that are used in food capture, locomotion, and for holding on to the substrate. Sea urchins also have small pinchers, called pedicellarine, that are used for defense and for clutching food (Parker and Kalvaas, 1992; Kato and Schroeter, 1985).
The mouth is located on the underside. It consists of a complex array of skeletal elements, plates, and teeth arranged in five symmetry called the “Aristotle’s lantern.” The mouth leads to the digestive tract which empties through the anus located on the top of the test (Kato and Schroeter, 1985).
Five skeins of roe are the most prominent structures in the internal cavity of sea urchins. Between the skeins of roe are gill-like structures which are part of the water vascular system, important in movement, respiration, and food gathering. The gut is dark and often filled with partialy digested plant material (Kato and Schroeter, 1985).
The sexes are generally separate in sea urchins. Females release up to several million eggs into the sea where fertilization takes place. After a multistage planktonic existence, the larvae settle and metamorphose to the characteristic form (Parker and Kalvass, 1992).
Sea urchins feed mainly on sloughed or broken kelp. If the preferred food is absent, they will eat other algae, dead fish, lobster bait, and small animals (Parker and Kalvass, 1992; Chenoweth, 1994). Predators include sea otters, starfishes, crabs, wolf eels, lobsters, and fishes (Parker and Kalvass, 1992; Kato, 1994).
Red Sea Urchin
The red sea urchin is one of the largest species of sea urchins in the world, growing to a test diameter of about 7 inches. Its test and spine color is usually dark purple. Not infrequently, however, either the test or spines, or both, are reddish or light purple (Kato and Schroeter, 1985).
The red sea urchin occurs on the west coast of North America from the tip of Baja California to Sitka and Kodiak, Alaska (Kato and Schroeter, 1985. It has also been reported to occur along the Asiatic coast as far south as the southern tip of Hokkaido Island, Japan (McCauley and Carey, 1967). Recent studies, however, indicate that the red sea urchin does not occur along the Asiatic coast (Bazhin, 1994). Bazhin (1994) also suggests that the single report of a red sea urchin on Hokkaido Island in 1943 may have been a misidentification.
The red sea urchin usually occupies shallow waters, from the mid to low intertidal zones to depths in excess of 164 feet, but have been found as deep as 410 feet (McCauley and Carey, 1967). Individuals prefer rocky substrates, particularly ledges and crevices, and avoid sand and mud (Kato and Schroeter, 1985).
Red sea urchins are sexually mature at 1.5 to 2.0 inches in test diameter. Spawning times can vary from year to year and at different locations, but the episodes appear to be cyclic (Parker and Kalvass, 1992; Kato and Schroeter, 1985). In southern California, most spawning occurs in winter. In northern California, spawning occurs in spring and summer (Parker and Kalvass, 1992). In Puget Sound, Washington, spawning occurs in the spring (Mottet, 1976).
Some red sea urchins take 4 to 5 years to reach a size of 3.5 inches (Parker and Kalvass, 1992), while others take 8 to 16 years (Schroeter et al., 1994). Red sea urchins are comparatively long-lived, with some living for at least 30 years. In southern California, the giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is preferred for food (Leighton, 1965). In northern California, sea urchin feed on bull and brown kelp (Parker and Kalvass, 1992).
On the U.S. Pacific coast, red, purple and green sea urchins are commercially harvested. On the Atlantic coast, only green sea urchins are commercially harvested. West coast sea urchins are commercially harvested by divers using “hooka” diving gear, consisting of a low-pressure air compressor that feeds air through a hose from the vessel to the divers. Most vessels are 25 to 40 feet long and are capable of holding 1 to 3 tons of sea urchins, an amount usually harvested in a day’s fishing by 1 to 3 divers. Harvesting takes place at depths of 5 to 100 feet, with most dives taking place in 20 to 60 feet. Sea urchins are harvested from the ocean bottom with a hand-held rake or hook and put into a hoop net bag or wire basket. The basket is winched onto the boat and emptied into a larger net bag. In areas far from port, a larger “pick-up” vessel may take the catch from several harvesting vessels back to port (Parker and Kalvass, 1992).
East coast sea urchins are commonly harvested with small bottom drags or by scuba diving. Ihe divers pick the urchin off the bottom and place them in a mesh bag. Ihe boat operator hauls the bag up and empties it into a bin. Urchins are harvested with a drag in areas where diving is not feasible (Chenoweth, 1994).