Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Sea Cucumber and Sea Urchin Commercial Harvest Exclusion Zones
Haro Strait

WAC 220-52-071(1)(a)(ii): (sea cucumber) and WAC 220-52-073(1)(b)(i): (sea urchin):

"Haro Strait north of a line projected due west from the southernmost point of Cattle Point on San Juan Island to the international border and south of a line projected due west from a point one-quarter mile north of Lime Kiln Light on San Juan Island to the international border." Effective since 12/7/1987.

The Haro Strait Reserve is one of two marine protected areas created as commercial sea urchin and sea cucumber harvest exclusion zones. The reserve prohibits non-tribal commercial fishers from harvesting sea urchins and sea cucumbers. By agreement, treaty tribes also do not harvest urchins and cucumbers in these areas.

(Note: this is the same map as used for the San Juan Channel EZ)

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Links to other imagery about this site

Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal 274.1 110.9
Subtidal 13,140.0 5,317.6
Total 13,414.1 5,428.5
Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Not Applicable

 

Trout Not Applicable
Bottomfish Not Applicable
Shellfish Not Applicable
Forage Fish Not Applicable
Unclassified Not Applicable
Note: this MPA's WACs do not regulate any recreational fishery. Please check the rulings of other MPAs for specific information about closures within those areas.
 
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Not Applicable  
Bottomfish Not Applicable  
Shellfish Not Applicable  
Forage Fish Not Applicable  
Unclassified Limited Harvesting of sea cucumber and sea urchin only is prohibited.

Note: this MPA's WACs do not regulate any commercial fisheries but sea cucumber and sea urchin. Please check the rulings of other MPAs for specific information about closures within those areas.

Prominent and unique features

The area included in the Haro Strait Urchin and Cucumber Reserve contains some of the most spectacular underwater habitats in Washington’s inland sea. The reserve is bounded on the west by the International Border with Canada and to the east by the west shore of San Juan Island. The subtidal habitats include nearshore steep, rocky slopes and shallow banks composed of sand and coarse sediments. At the international border, Middle Bank is composed of rocky pinnacles, hummocks, and valleys. Between San Juan Island and Middle Bank is the deep channel of Haro Strait which extends to a depth of 928 feet (283 m). Much of the deep basin contains coarse sediments such as gravel and cobble interrupted by rocky ridges, pinnacles, and outcroppings. Currents are strong in Haro Strait and the channel serves as a major conduit for outflow from the Fraser River. Other major features include Salmon Bank to the south, False Bay along the central shore, and prominent headlands including Eagle Point, Pile Point, and Lime Kiln Point.

The Haro Strait Urchin and Cucumber Reserve include the False Bay Marine Preserve and the San Juan County Bottomfish Recovery Zones at Pile Point and Lime Kiln Point.

Description of fish, bird, and mammal resources at the site

The complex nature of the marine geology provides for a diversity of habitats including nearshore kelp and seaweed beds, sand flats, steep rocky habitats, and the deep seafloor covered with course sediments interrupted by rocky ridges and outcroppings. This area consistently is identified as having rich and diverse biological communities. Rocky habitat species such as lingcod, kelp greenling, and copper, quillback, Puget Sound, black, and yelloweye rockfishes inhabit the slopes, pinnacles, and outcroppings. These areas also support macroinvertebrate communities consisting of red and green sea urchins, red sea cucumbers, spotted prawns, scallops, northern horse mussels, sea stars, northern abalone, and Puget Sound king crabs. The deep basins support other communities of bottomfish including spotted ratfish, spiny dogfish, Dover sole, Pacific cod, walleye pollock, skates, and rex sole.

Haro Strait is a major conduit for migrating salmon, especially Chinook, coho, and sockeye. Many headlands and the channel are fished by commercial purse seiners and gillnetters who target sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser River.

The entire reserve is utilized by southern resident killer whales as a primary feeding ground. Harbor and Dall’s porpoises are also commonly observed in Haro Strait as is harbor seals, northern sea lions, and occasionally, an elephant seal. Bald eagles commonly feed in the area and a variety of seabirds such as rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemonts, commorants and common murres are often observed in tide rips feeding on forage fishes.

Programs in place to manage the site

Regulations for the commercial non-Indian sea urchin and sea cucumber fisheries prohibit harvest of sea urchins and sea cucumbers within the closure areas. The closure areas are also identified within sea urchin and sea cucumber harvest management plans between the State and Treaty Tribes. Enforcement of non-tribal fishing regulations is conducted by WDFW Marine Enforcement Detachment.

Issues of concern

The urchin and cucumber reserves were created to assure that a significant portion of the resource is allowed to exhibit natural characteristics in terms of density, distribution, size, and age. Urchins are known to limit and structure kelp forests, and urchin predation by sea otters may enhance kelp forest growth.

Recruitment of sea urchins is sporadic. There may be some need for the presence of large urchins to protect recruiting juvenile urchins from predation by crabs and fishes.

The urchins and cucumbers may still be the subject of human disturbance as they or their habitats may be captured during other fisheries for salmon and bottomfish. Many derelict fishing nets in the nearshore rocky habitats may reduce the amount of available habitat for urchins and cucumbers. Over time, sea otters may re-occupy the San Juan Archipelago and affect abundances of urchins: Otters are occasionally spotted off the west San Juan Island coast.

Performance measures

Performance measures can be based upon urchin and cucumber densities, sizes, and distribution patterns. Although directed studies of the effectiveness of the Haro Strait Urchin and Cucumber Reserve have not yet been conducted, one is planned for early 2005 on red sea urchins. WDFW marine fish biologists conduct bottom trawl and quantitative video surveys throughout the archipelago and can compare urchin densities at stations within and outside of the urchin and cucumber reserve.