The commercial sea cucumber fishery in the USA began in the state of Washington and focused on this single species. Between 1971 and 1987, sea cucumbers were harvested by divers without any seasonal or spatial restrictions. In 1987, when depletion of sea cucumber populations became noticeable, the state established harvest districts and a restricted harvest season (ADFG 1990). Today, most of the harvesting is done by hand using SCUBA or hookah, with only limited trawl collections under experimental fishery permits. Collection by divers for personal use/consumption is subject to a daily limit of ten specimens (Bruckner 2005).
In the state of California, the fishery started in 1978 and focused on two species: this species and P. parvimensis. Both diving and targeted trawling are used for the capture, however trawls are restricted mainly to the south of the state and their use has declined over the past few years (Bruckner 2006). In 1997, divers with permits for sea urchins and abalones were allowed to collect sea cucumbers as well (Rogers-Bennett and Ono 2001, Bruckner 2006).
In the state of Alaska, harvesting of this species began in 1981 as an experimental fishery; however the first true commercial landing was recorded in 1983 in Ketchikan (Southern Alaska). Sea cucumbers are collected by SCUBA divers. The fishery was initially not subject to any regulation, and the number of divers increased rapidly when, in 1990, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed down the fishery to develop a management plan. In 1995â1996, 424 divers were issued permits in southeast Alaska and this number decreased to 235 in 2001â2002 and 174 in 2006â2007 (Hebert and Pritchett 2002). There is currently a fishery in Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands areas (Ruccio and Jackson 2002).
In the state of Oregon, the fishery began in 1993 targeting this species exclusively (Bruckner 2006). Collection is by SCUBA divers and by trawl with experimental gear permits (Bruckner 2006). Only nine divers requested a permit for the fishery in 1993 even though 44 permits had been made available, whereas 22 divers were recorded in 1994 (Bruckner 2006). The number of harvesters in Oregon after 1994 remained low: five in 1997, two in 1999, one in 2000, two in 2001 and two in 2003 (Bruckner 2005).
This species is the only species fished on the west coast of Canada, the fishery being centered on Vancouver Island in the Georgia and Johnstone Straits and in the Puget Sound. The fishery was an open access through 1990. The number of licenses rose from 40 in 1985 to 215 in 1990. The number of vessels went from 21 in 1985 to 126 in 1990. In 1988, 124 divers where involved and 163 in 1990 (Muse 1998). The fishery in British Columbia expanded rapidly after 1980 with annual landings exceeding 1900 tonnes in 1988. Fishing was initially permitted in the South Coast areas only and the majority of landings were taken in the Strait of Georgia until 1987. The north coast was opened in 1986 with a total annual recommended catch of 500 tonnes, although fishing did not occur there until 1987. To date, landings of sea cucumbers have been recorded from all Canadian Pacific fisheries management areas, with the exception of the North and West Queen Charlotte Islands. The central and north coasts currently support about 80 percent of the fishery (DFO 2002).