Sustainability and Fine-Scale Management of a California Sea Urchin Fishery and the Ecology of Exploitation

Start/End: February, 2010 to January, 2014

A small group of commercial urchin divers has long expressed interest in developing community-based, co-management of the red sea urchin fishery. As part of this plan, urchin divers have been voluntarily taxing themselves to support the collection of urchin data that might help maintain the fishery’s sustainability and ultimately help craft a co-management plan. This collaborative fisheries research project is gathering spatially explicit data on sea urchin movement patterns and mortality rates within the Point Loma kelp bed off San Diego to both further fishermens’ goals and contribute to basic ecological understanding of a key kelp forest herbivore. In the first year of the project, biologists acoustically mapped bottom elevations in the kelp forest at horizontal resolutions of 10 to 15 meters. A new kind of tag has been developed for tracking urchin movements, and researchers are in the process of developing three underwater time-lapse camera systems to observe small-scale urchin movements and behaviors, including “urchin feeding lines.”

  • University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Co-principal Investigators

  • University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)