SALEM, Ore. – The Department of Fish and Wildlife today announced an April 23 lottery to award eight commercial sea urchin permits.
The commercial sea urchin fishery in Oregon is limited to 30 permits. When the number of permits falls below 30, ODFW holds a lottery to bring the number back up to 30. Eight permits currently are available.
Sea urchins are harvested by divers in Oregon's nearshore waters at depths of 15 to 75 feet. They are then processed and packed in Washington or California and shipped to markets in Japan and elsewhere as urchin roe, or "uni," a common item found in sushi restaurants.
In order to retain a sea urchin permit, the permit holder must harvest at least 5,000 pounds of urchin a year. A permit holder must harvest a total 20,000 pounds before the permit can be transferred to another person.
In recent years, sea urchin abundance, lack of consistent markets and poor prices have had a strong influence on the fishery. Sea urchin landings in Oregon peaked in 1994 at 9.3 millions pounds. Since then, the number of sea urchins harvested has fallen sharply – in 2009 only 723,000 pounds were landed.
According to Scott Groth, ODFW shellfish biologist, only larger sea urchins may be harvested in order to give sea urchins multiple opportunities to reproduce.
Red urchins must be 3 1/2 inches or larger in shell diameter (not including spines). Purple urchins must be 2 inches or larger in shell diameter.
Permit applicants must be at least 18 years old, and many not apply if they currently hold a permit. Only one application per individual will be accepted. Applications are received by the ODFW Salem office only and must be received or postmarked no later than April 15.
Applications are available from the Salem office, and applications will be mailed upon request. There is a $102.00 fee for residents and a $292.00 fee for non-residents to apply. The fee will go toward the permit cost if the applicant is successful. Unsuccessful applicant fees are refunded. Successful applicants will be required to purchase a personal commercial license within 30 days. Individual commercial licenses cost $82 for residents and $292 for nonresidents.
To retain a permit the fisher must make landings in the prior year. If there are no landings and the permit has not been transferred, the permit reverts to the state.
For more information on applying for a permit please contact ODFW's licensing services, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE, Salem, OR 97303 or call (503) 947-6101 or (800) 720-6339 ext. 76112.