The giant red or Californian sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) is the largest of approximately 30 sea cucumber species in British Columbia and the only one that is commercially harvested. Much of sea cucumber inventory, research, and surveys are worked in collaboration with the Kitasoo Fisheries Program. As well, the sea cucumber program has strong collaborations with the fishing industry associations. The PSCHA (Pacific Sea Cucumber Harvesters Association) funds a term biologist position for on-going stock assessment projects as well co-sponsor a masters student at SFU who is working on the feasibility of rotational harvest strategies for sea cucumbers.
Despite many obstacles, the stock assessment division has put great effort into the research and conservation of the giant red sea cucumber.
Little is known of stock abundance and distribution, longevity, growth rates, natural mortality rates and recruitment rates of the sea cucumber.
Growth studies are made difficult because of the sea cucumber's ability to change shape and size, and by annual fluctuations in body mass due to resorbption of visceral organs.
Age determination studies have not been successful due to lack of hard body parts, the lack of structure in the length frequency data and the inability to tag and follow individuals for long periods of time.
There is much to learn about the sea cucumber and the stock assessment division has taken a conservative approach to management of this species in order to avoid over-exploitation and other harmful effects.
There's ongoing experimental research on the sea cucumber fishery exploitation rates. For more information please view the Surveys page.
For more information about ongoing research on sea cucumbers at the Pacific Biological Station, please contact:
Janet Lochead, Invertebrate Biologist