For over 26 years, we committed to investing funds and effort to our priority enhancement program, ultimately ensuring the long-term viability of the fishery. The UHA’s West Coast Geoduck Research Corporation planted 250,000 – 700,000 seed (hatchery-reared juvenile geoducks) each year, for a total of over seven million seeds planted. Our internationally recognized program was the only enhancement program in Canada entirely funded by industry. In 2015, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) adapted the guidelines to geoduck enhancement. Regulators encouraged the UHA to shift to culturing geoducks on tenures leased from the government instead of wild beds, so the enhancement program shifted to geoduck aquaculture on research tenures.
The UHA enhancement program allowed the UHA to refine culture techniques, influence regulation, and ensure sustainability in the Canadian geoduck aquaculture industry. The planted geoducks are now grown on land leased from the government tenures, which are separate from the wild fishery. The WCGRC applies for DFO’s tenure underwater land in order to carry out the aquaculture research.
We obtain geoduck seed from shellfish hatcheries on Vancouver Island. Then, the geoduck seed grow in a floating nursery system. Finally, the seed are planted into the sandy seabed of the planting sites within the Strait of Georgia, near Vancouver Island. We continuously test our preparation, planting, and procedure methods to maximize seed survival rate and minimize environmental impact. A UHA crew works year-round to care for geoduck seed, maintain grow-out sites, and prepare for future planting.
Geoduck larvae and juveniles are subject to significant mortalities in the wild. Aquaculture focuses on reducing juvenile geoduck mortality by protecting the seed and juvenile geoducks from predators like sea stars, crab, fish, and diving birds. Different site preparation methods, planting methods, planting devices, protective materials, and overall procedures are continuously tested and refined to maximize seed survival rate and also minimize the impact on the environment. One of the planting methods uses a planting machine capable of planting geoduck seed on a commercial scale.
The UHA aquaculture crew works year-round to take care of the seed, plant the seed, and prepare for the next planting season. They manage the aquaculture program throughout the entire year and are out on the water tending to aquaculture operations every day, weather permitting.