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Integrated fisheries management plan summary: Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) - Pacific Region, 2022/2023

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The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) summary is to provide a brief overview of the information found in the full IFMP. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on the fishery and its management to DFO staff, legislated co-management boards and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource. The full IFMP is available on request.

This IFMP summary is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

Signed: R. Reid, Regional Director General

General overview/introduction, including map

The Pacific Oyster is a non-indigenous species purposely introduced into British Columbia starting around 1912 for aquaculture production on licenced tenured aquaculture sites. Introductions continued over the decades, and successful reproduction events onto untenured wild foreshore beaches were reported beginning in the early and mid 1900s. Prior to 2012 commercial harvest opportunities for Pacific Oysters on untenured foreshore has been managed by the Province of British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (“the Province”) through a Memorandum of Understanding. This was due to the direct connection to aquaculture activities. As a result of the recent Morton (February, 2009) court decision, both governments agreed that it would be prudent for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to assume responsibility beginning in 2012.

Past commercial harvest opportunities under Provincial management have averaged 40-60 participants annually over the last ten years with a total allowable catch in 2011 of 417 tonnes. During the 2012 and 2013 season DFO continued the Provincial management model while the transition was underway and the Department consulted and decided upon the future management and assessment frameworks for the fishery. A precautionary total allowable harvest of 155 tonnes (in 2012), and 200 tonnes (in 2013) was provided.

In October 2013 the Department announced future licence eligibility limitation for the commercial Pacific oyster fishery. Past commercial licence holders having held a licence in at least one year during the period of 2009-2013 were able to apply for a one-time opportunity to establish eligibility. As part of this process the Department also created 20 new communal commercial licences for First Nations. A total of 51 ZWO licences, along with 20 FZWO licence eligibilities have been established. Along with licence limitation, the Department announced new assessment and monitoring requirements for the fishery.

The current commercial fishery occurs within the south coast of British Columbia mainly along the mid portions of the east and west sides of Vancouver Island. Commercial harvest sites are divided into two licence areas.

The commercial licence year will run from March 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023. The actual commercial fishery opening time is scheduled to run from March 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022; and also from September 10, 2022 to December 31, 2022. Official openings may vary during that timeframe based on sanitary and biotoxin contamination conditions and quota harvest completion. Official opening and closing dates are announced by fishery notice and are available through the DFO website.

The fishery operates under a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and individual licence quotas.

Stock assessment, science & traditional knowledge

The Pacific Oyster, Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg 1793) is a non-indigenous species introduced to B.C. for aquaculture (Quayle 1964, 1969, 1988; Gillespie et al. 2012). Its native range is from Sakhalin Island and coastal Russia through Japan to Kyushu, China, Korea, Southeast Asia and Pakistan (Coan et al. 2000). They have been introduced and have established populations in many countries worldwide (Ruesink et al. 2005, Gillespie et al. 2012).

The Pacific Oyster was introduced extensively on the west coast of North America in the early 1900s, and was first brought into B.C. in 1912 or 1913 (Bourne 1979, Gillespie et al. 2012). Small scale introductions continued and large scale importation of seed oysters began in 1925. Successful reproduction was reported in Ladysmith Harbour in 1925, 1926 and 1932, followed by successful dispersal beyond the harbour in 1936 (Elsey 1932, 1934; Elsey and Quayle 1939; Quayle 1964, 1969, 1988; Bourne 1979). Widespread reproductive success was reported in 1942, 1958 and 1961 resulting in the establishment of Pacific Oysters throughout the Strait of Georgia. They were transplanted to the west coast of Vancouver Island (Esperanza Inlet; Barkley, Clayoquot and Kyuquot Sounds) in 1937; they are now established in suitable habitats on the west coast of Vancouver Island south of Brooks Peninsula (Gillespie 2007; Gillespie et al. 2012). There is also confirmed reproductive success of Pacific Oysters in Skidegate Inlet, Haida Gwaii (Sloan et al. 2001; Gillespie et al. 2012) and reported occurrence of natural-set Pacific Oysters from Tasu Sound on the west coast of Haida Gwaii (Gillespie, unpublished data).

Pacific Oysters are protandric hermaphrodites, initially spawning as males and then may become females during the winter season (Gillespie et al. 2012). They are broadcast spawners with a pelagic larval period of 3-4 weeks depending on temperature (Gillespie et al. 2012). Their natural distribution in B.C. is limited to locations with warmer water temperatures that are required to stimulate gonadal development, spawning and the metamorphosis of larvae. Although spawning can occur at temperatures between 16-34 C and salinities ranging from 10-42 ppt; temperatures of 20-25 C and salinities of 35 ppt are considered optimal (Gillespie et al. 2012). However, the range of Pacific Oysters can be expanded by manual introduction to microhabitats. Adults are sessile and the only exchange between sites is through larval transport or human intervention. Adults grow relatively quickly in the first few years after settlement and growth slows with maturity and senescence.

Longevity and age structure of populations are not documented due to difficulties in establishing aging methods and criteria. New methods for aging Pacific Oysters have been tested on Pacific Oysters in China (Harding and Mann 2006), but these methods still need to be tested for the Pacific Oysters in B.C. Both the literature and local knowledge suggest that Pacific Oysters can live for decades (Quayle 1988, Pauley et al. 1988).

Pacific Oyster populations in B.C. generally occur in mid to high intertidal zones on hard substrates (Bourne 1979, Ruesink et al. 2005) but can vary depending on the environmental conditions of the site. Fishermen have noted that Pacific Oysters are lower in the intertidal zone on the west coast of Vancouver Island. A preferred settlement substrate is oyster shell and large aggregations form if populations are not disturbed; under appropriate conditions they can form reefs on gravel banks at the tidal mouth of small streams (Gillespie et al. 2012). Harvestable populations of Pacific Oysters may be present on bedrock walls and outcrops where successful larval recruitment occurs on a regular basis.

In all but a few locations in B.C., successful recruitment on a large scale is sporadic. Pacific Oyster populations can exhibit local recruitment events that will sustain populations for a number of years. However, populations can become ephemeral if larval recruitment is irregular.

Research studies were conducted in 2012 to determine the best survey methods for Pacific Oysters. The results from this work were presented and accepted by CSAS in December to 2012 (Norgard et al. 2014). This report was developed to assist potential harvesters in conducting surveys and data collection of wild Pacific Oysters on beaches in which discrete beds of oysters are found. Discrete beds are those where well defined beds of oysters can be visually determined on beaches. In general, Pacific Oyster populations may be found in discrete beds of single or clustered oysters loose on the surface of the beach or individual oysters cemented to hard substrate (large rocks or bedrock), at times including vertical surfaces. This protocol provided key guidance on sampling and data collection methodology, optimal quadrat size and sampling intensity for discrete oyster beds.

Economic, social, cultural importance

A socio-economic analysis for this fishery has not been completed to date.

Shared stewardship arrangements

Commercial licences are responsible for arranging assessment and in-season fishery monitoring services. Licence holders fund a hail program to collect information on fishing activity, and to track area and licence quotas. In addition, licence holders will be making arrangements to begin industry funded stock assessment surveys of commercially open beaches.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Several Stock Assessment and Fisheries Management personnel are directly involved in this fishery for some part of their activities. Contributions to the IFMP are provided by Fisheries Management in the areas and at regional headquarters, the Science Branch, Conservation and Protection (C&P), the Pacific Fishery Licence Unit, the Treaty and Aboriginal Policy Directorate, and numerous administrative personnel. Generally, all personnel are multi-tasked.

Governance process

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has ultimate and final responsibility for the management of fisheries in Canadian waters, and for the conduct of Canadian vessels operating in international waters. The Pacific Oyster fishery is governed by the Fisheries Act and regulations made thereunder and other applicable federal legislation.

Access and allocations

The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

First Nations

Subject to CSSP restrictions, to date, no limits have been placed on Aboriginal harvest for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes.

Five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island - Ahousaht, Ehattesaht, Hesquiaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht (the T’aaq-wiihak First Nations) - have aboriginal rights to fish for any species of fish, with the exception of Geoduck, within their Fishing Territories and to sell that fish. The Department has developed a 2021/22 Five Nations Multi-species Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The FMP includes specific details about the fishery, such as allocation/access, licensing and designations, fishing area, harvesting opportunities, and fishery monitoring and catch reporting. Feedback provided by the Five Nations during consultations was considered and incorporated into the 2021/22 FMP by DFO where possible.

The implementation of the Five Nations’ right-based sale fishery continues to be an ongoing process. The 2021/22 FMP was developed to implement the right-based multi-species fishery to accommodate the Five Nations’ Aboriginal rights consistent with the British Columbia Supreme Court’s 2018 decision. On April 19, 2021, the British Columbia Court of Appeal released its decision in relation to the appeal brought forward by the Five Nations. As a result, the department has announced a number of in-season changes via fishery notice and will revise the 2021/22 FMP to reflect changes that have been made thus far. Further changes will be announced by fishery notice and/or in the 2022/23 FMP which will be available in the spring of 2022. For further information, see the revised 2021/22 FMP


Subject to CSSP restrictions, the daily limit for Pacific Oysters in PFMAs 12 to 29 is 12 in the shell per day; the possession limit is twice the daily limit. The daily limit in PFMAs 1 to 11 is zero.


The coast-wide commercial total allowable catch (TAC) for 2022/23 is 688,800 lb.


The first priority in managing fish stocks is conservation, followed by First Nations obligations. Beyond that, the needs of aquaculturalists will be given equitable consideration to those of other users in the commercial and recreational sectors.

Management of the fishery

# Management issue Objectives Management measure
1 Assessment programs for this fishery are still in development. Quotas for the commercial fishery in 2022/23 are still relying partially upon previous assessment data conducted by the Province of B.C. This data is becoming dated and new stock assessment surveys will need to be conducted over the coming seasons. Manage harvest sites based on biomass estimates. Establish a five year rotation survey schedule for beached fished in the commercial fishery.
2 The Pacific Oyster fishery is a selective fishery and there are few concerns for potential impacts on depleted species, including those which have been listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). While not identified as a direct threat, Pacific Oysters are believed by COSEWIC to have exacerbated other ongoing threats to the native Olympia Oyster. Provide long-term stable access to Pacific Oysters for all harvest sectors, while minimizing negative impacts to native species. The Pacific Oyster is a non-indigenous species introduced to British Columbia by humans for the purposes of aquaculture production. Under COSEWIC definition Pacific Oyster is considered an “Alien” species within Canada, and would not normally be considered for COSEWIC or SARA listing or protections regardless of stock status. The Department does aim to manage the Pacific Oyster resources for sustainability on a regional basis and to meet allocation objectives for harvest sectors.

Olympia oysters are smaller than Pacific oysters. In order to minimize accidental collection in areas where they co-occur the Department recommends a voluntary minimize size of 5 cm.
3 Coastal First Nations are showing an increased interest in economic opportunities, and interest in oyster commercial licences. Provide economic opportunities to First Nations. Commercial access to many of the wild fisheries in B.C. is currently being addressed by two programs; the Allocation Transfer Program (ATP) and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fishery Initiative (PICFI). The ATP retires existing commercial licence eligibilities from fish harvesters on a voluntary basis and re-issues these to eligible First Nation organizations as communal commercial licences. For the 2022/23 season FZWO communal commercial licences have been designated to approximately 15 First Nations on the coast.

Compliance plan

C&P staff will pursue opportunities to monitor and enforce this fishery, in conjunction with the monitoring and enforcement priorities directed by senior management in the Pacific Region.

DFO is reviewing all wild bivalve conditions of licence, and will increase / clarify management controls around product movement, i.e. selling of products to buyers/receivers, and implement changes to notification, tagging and reporting requirements. Consultation and engagement will continue with a focus on increasing awareness of traceability requirements followed by changes to conditions of licence.

In addition, DFO will commence intensive enforcement operations on bivalve fisheries, targeting tagging, landing and reporting, and complete major C&P investigations regarding extensive bivalve laundering.

Over the longer term, DFO will continue to work with industry and BC to: improve industry traceability management, processes and technology, including access to funding; build and improve relationships with our Indigenous partners aimed at ensuring access, opportunity and monitoring of FSC fisheries meets all needs; reassess the impacts of focused and concerted enforcement on the bivalve fisheries aimed at assessing effectiveness of management control measures and informing future management control measures.

The safety of consumers is a top priority for the Government of Canada. The reputation of Canada’s food supply is a responsibility shared by all parties, including industry and federal and provincial governments.

As partners for delivery of the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) collaborate to prevent illegal harvesting and selling of bivalve shellfish, including suspected laundering of illegal products through legitimate aquaculture businesses. DFO also remains committed to meeting conservation objectives for bivalves as well as supporting priority for Food, Social and Ceremonial fisheries. Any harvest occurring in conflict with established management measures and controls has the potential of negatively impacting the conservation of bivalve populations.

DFO will investigate reports of illegal harvesting violations and will take appropriate enforcement actions, including prosecution. Furthermore, DFO may consider more restrictive management approaches if needed to protect public health. Commercial growers and harvesters are reminded that they are required, by law, to follow specific record-keeping and tagging requirements. Records of shellfish movement through the growing cycle and to the point of distribution provide evidence to support public health, regulatory decisions and closure recommendations. Commercial harvesters and aquaculture operators are required to:

If you are aware of illegal bivalve harvest activities and/or are aware of violations, please call the DFO Observe, Record and Report (ORR) phone line at 1-800-465-4336.

More information on the policies and criteria for harvesting shellfish can be found in the CSSP manual. See also Fishery Notice FN1142 (2019)

Performance review

Performance indicators are reported in a Post-Season Review that considers long-term stability, Social, Cultural and Economic objectives, Compliance and Ecosystem objectives of the Pacific Oyster management plan.

Stock assessment and research activities are outlined. The post season review may include outcomes from meetings with First Nations and other sectors regarding Pacific Oysters. The delivery of the commercial fishery will be assessed by performance measures such as the amount of harvest and the value of the fishery.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada contact

For additional information on this IFMP Summary or to request an electronic version of the full IFMP, please contact Guy Parker at 250-756-7163 or

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