The Underwater Harvesters Association (UHA) is a non-profit association formed in 1981 to 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. There are currently 34 First Nations participating in the fishery through joint holdings of five licences and 5.6% of the overall quota.
The UHA members are actively involved in managing and promoting their fishery with funding provided from annual membership fees paid by each license holder. They are regarded as a progressive group with the highest level of commitment to the resource and also 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.
The UHA’s mandate includes:
The UHA started co-managing the industry with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in 1989 when the association contracted and funded an independent company to implement a geoduck dockside monitoring program to provide the DFO with fishery data. This data was critical to effectively manage the resource and the DFO didn’t have the financial resources needed to obtain it.
Today, the UHA members provide virtually all of the funding to implement the co-management program and their commitment is considered mutually beneficial to the resource, the industry and DFO.
The UHA’s co-management program consists of the following activities:
The UHA, through its fully controlled subsidiary, West Coast Geoduck Research Corporation, funds biologists and charters vessels to collect and analyze survey 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.
The UHA’s contract with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. (www.archipelago.ca), initiated by the UHA in 1989 to monitor the fishery, has continued to expand over the years. Today, the UHA’s monitoring program:
Click here to visit Archipelago’s geoduck web site that features important information about the fishery and its management.
Members of the UHA also participate in a number of steering committees and advisory groups to assist with management decisions. As well, the UHA is a founding member of the BC Seafood Alliance (www.bcseafoodalliance.com) which represents British Columbia’s seafood industries in providing effective leadership, advocacy and communication in pursuit of a profitable and sustainable seafood industry in British Columbia.
The UHA has held a deep water geoduck aquaculture tenure since 2006 and commenced seeding geoduck on that tenure in 2010.
The UHA has invested in its 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.
The UHA started marketing Canadian geoduck in 1999 when generic marketing became part of the association’s mandate. Since then, their evolving long-term marketing strategy, supported by federal government programs, has guided the UHA’s activities which have included developing promotional materials, attending trade shows, hosting promotional events, and conducting market research. The UHA acknowledges the support of the Agri-Marketing Program of the Government of Canada.
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