|Swinomish marine ecologist, Courtney Greiner, holds a sea cucumber during a biomass survey. Photo credit: J. Barber|
The California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) are found in rocky and gravel habitats throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, and Puget Sound. This is the largest species of sea cucumber along the coast and has an interesting habit of losing and then regrowing nearly all its internal organs each fall.
This dive fishery supports a large overseas market with most of the product being first processed and dried in the U.S. and then shipped to countries throughout Asia. A small portion of the product is sold live, both domestically and overseas. Dive harvest is restricted to harvest-by-hand only and no size limit exists in this fishery. The management year for sea cucumbers goes from August 1 through July 31 the following year and the fishery is closed from March 1 to June 30 each year for spawning.
Swinomish Fisheries staff conduct subtidal sea cucumber surveys every four years in Washington state commercial sea cucumber harvest Districts 1 and 2. Surveys consist of Swinomish scientific divers recording counts and collecting juvenile and adult sea cucumbers along a 3 ft wide transect ranging from depths of 70 to 15 ft. Transects fall on every 3.1 miles of high density sea cucumber habitat shoreline. Collected sea cucumbers are weighed and returned live to the site following the dive. Survey data is then used by co-managers to develop a biomass estimate for each district.