About the Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association

The Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association (PUHA) is an industry association established to examine fishery issues in the Red Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) in British Columbia. The primary market for this fishery is in Japan and the Association is developing strategies to enhance their market profile and extend the reputation of themselves, and the Canadian seafood production industry in general, as a consistent and dependable source of high quality seafood produced in an environmentally sound manner.

The commercial dive fishery for Red Sea Urchins (RSU) began in the 1970's and the industry developed only gradually until the early 1980’s at which point production increased substantially. Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO) took steps in 1991 to control harvest levels in the fishery, initially by implementation of a “limited entry” system, which have ultimately held the number licences to 110, and then through the application of fishery independent surveys to establish sustainable harvest levels. Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels were arbitrary and precautionary until 1995 but since then have been set based on research surveys and verified catch data.

The Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association (PUHA) was incorporated in 1994 and is composed of all eligible license-holders, currently numbering 110, in the fishery. Under DFO’s cost recovery policies, commercial fishing groups are expected to fund the incremental costs of science and management associated with the fishery. This is done under a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) between the respective associations and DFO. The mandate of PUHA is to represent the license-holders in managing and regulating the fishery, including the development of an Integrated Fishery Management Plan (IFMP) and to ensure the management and science costs of the fishery are recovered. In addition, the Association has an “umbrella” agreement with a Vessel Observer and Validation service provider to ensure all vessels have appropriate observer and/or validation coverage.

The purposes of PUHA are:

  1. to encourage the sustainable and responsible use of the available Red Sea Urchin resources in conformity with the “pre-cautionary principle”;
  2. to promote quality in harvesting, processing and marketing of Red Sea Urchins with an eye to maximizing the economic returns from the activities;
  3. to collaborate effectively with the province of BC, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and community groups; and
  4. to assist the Members in achieving the above objectives.

Overall, the services provided by the Association to its Members are to represent them with the federal and provincial agencies involved in the Red Sea Urchin fishery.

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