Underwater Harvester's Association
A non-profit renowned for sustainability leadership.
The Underwater Harvesters Association (UHA) is a non-
profit association formed in 1981. We represent the 55 British Columbia geoduck and horse clam licence holders in managing and marketing the fishery.
Today, the association members include not only the licence holders, but also crew members from the harvesting vessels and the geoduck wholesalers located
in British Columbia, Canada.
Our members are actively involved in managing
and promoting the fishery. Funding is provided through annual membership fees paid by each license holder.
We are regarded as a progressive group with the
highest level of commitment to the geoduck resource. We’re also renowned for our foresight, attributing to the association’s recognition as a
Canadian west coast fishery co-management success story, and a model for the development of other co-managed fisheries.
Our mandate includes:
Co-managing the geoduck resource
The UHA started co-managing the industry with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in 1989. Today, our members provide the majority of the funding to manage the fishery and our commitment is considered mutually beneficial to the resource, the industry, and DFO.
The association contracts and funds an independent service provider to implement a geoduck dockside monitoring program that provides DFO with fishery data. This data is critical to effectively manage the resource and DFO requires the UHA to collect it.
The UHA’s co-management program consists of the following activities:
Through our research branch, West Coast Geoduck Research Corporation, we fund biologists and charter vessels to collect and analyze survey and assessment data, conduct geoduck life history research, and implement other programs related to the sustainability of the resource. As well, the UHA pays for extensive PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) testing to ensure that only safe product reaches the marketplace.
Our original contract to monitor the fishery was established in 1989 with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. (www.archipelago.ca). Our agreement has continued to expand over the years. Today, the monitoring program:
- ensures that 100% of all geoduck landed are validated by an independent port monitor;
- includes at sea fisheries observers for 90% of the fishery;
- provides extensive information on harvests to DFO; and,
- facilitates the collection of numerous samples.
We invested in the industry’s future by initiating a
long-term enhancement program in 1994. Through
this program, seed (hatchery raised juvenile geoducks)
are planted and monitored to augment wild
populations and ensure a viable long-term fishery.
Since 2009, enhancement activities have been carried
out by the UHA’s fully controlled research subsidiary, the
West Coast Geoduck Research Corporation.
Aquaculture is the cultivation or rearing of aquatic
animals for food. It’s an important aspect of
sustainability, to ensure the geoduck resource is
strong for future generations. Starting in 2006, the
UHA jointly funded a floating hatchery on
Vancouver Island, B.C. with a geoduck aquaculture
partner, Fan Seafoods. First, we grow the geoduck
seed in size in a floating nursery system. Then we
plant the seed into a sandy sea bed of the planting
sites, all of which are 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. There
are three full time employees caring for the seed,
and preparing for the next planting season. They
manage the enhancement program throughout
the entire year, and they tend to our enhancement
operations every day, weather permitting.
Marketing Geoduck from Canada
We started promoting Canadian geoduck in 1999 when marketing became a part of our official mandate.Since then, our evolving long-term marketing strategy, supported by federal government programs, has guided our strategic initiatives including attending trade shows, hosting promotional events, and conducting market research.
We acknowledge the support and funding from the Government of Canada. Currently, we are in partnership with Agri-Food and Agriculture Canada’s (AAFC) funding program: The Canadian Agricultural Partnership. With the funding provided by AAFC, we have been able to differentiate Geoduck from Canada to improve our competitive position in the market.