Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Sea Cucumber and Sea Urchin Commercial Harvest Exclusion Zones
San Juan and Upright Channels

WAC 220-340-730(1)(a)(i): (sea cucumber) and WAC 220-340-750(1)(b)(ii): (sea urchin):

"San Juan Channel and Upright Channel within the following lines: South of a line projected from Flat Point on Lopez Island true west to Shaw Island; west of a line from Neck Point on Shaw Island to Steep Point on Orcas Island; south of a line from Steep Point on Orcas Island to Limestone Point on San Juan Island north of a line from Flat Point on Lopez Island to the northernmost point of Turn Island and thence projected true west to San Juan Island." Effective since 5/11/1972.

The San Juan Channel Urchin and Cucumber 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 Haro Strait EZ)


Links to other imagery about this site

Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal 93.5 37.8
Subtidal 9,922.8 4,015.6
Total 10,016.3 4,053.4
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 San Juan Channel Urchin and Cucumber Reserve contains spectacular underwater habitats located in busy transportation and tourist corridors. The reserve is bounded on the west by the east shore of San Juan Island and to the east by the west shore of Shaw Island. Many small islands are included in the reserve including Jones, Yellow, Low, Brown, O’Neal, and McConnell Islands. The southern portion of the reserve includes the town of Friday Harbor. The reserve includes the Friday Harbor, Shaw Island, and Yellow and Low Marine Preserves.

The subtidal habitats include nearshore steep, rocky slopes and several shallow bays composed of sand and mud. Mid-channel depths are 200 feet (60 m) in the constricted southern portion and deepen to the north to depths of over 500 feet (150 m) as the channel widens. The nearshore habitat contains steep walls composed of bedrock, steep slopes composed of boulders, sand and gravel beaches and slopes in more protected areas, and embayments such as Parks Bay and Friday Harbor of finer sand and mud. Much of the deep channel contains coarse sediments such as gravel and cobble interrupted by rocky ridges, pinnacles, and outcroppings. Currents are strong in San Juan Channel which serves as a secondary conduit for outflow from the Fraser River during the spring and early summer.

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, seaweed, and eelgrass 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 yellowtail rockfishes inhabit the slopes, pinnacles, and outcroppings. Juvenile herring, codfishes, and surfperches inhabit nearshore vegetated areas. The slopes and basins also support macroinvertebrate communities consisting of red and green sea urchins, red sea cucumbers, spotted prawns, dock and other shrimp, 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.

The entire reserve is commonly frequented by harbor seals and northern sea lions, and occasionally visited by southern resident killer whales and minke whales. 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.

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. A study by WDFW and University of Washington scientists found urchins occurred in higher densities and larger sizes in the San Juan Channel reserve compared to commercially-harvested sites in the Strait of Juan De Fuca and along the West Coast. 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. Additional study of red sea urchins by WDFW is planned for early 2005.