NMFS NUMBER: 91-SWR-053
Regional Management Plan for Sea Cucumber in Micronesia
Richmond, Robert; University of Guam Marine Laboratory
National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Regional
Office, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach,
CA 90802-4018. PHONE: (562) 980-4033
Dried sea cucumbers
can provide significant export earnings for Pacific island
states. There are 10 to 15 species of holothurians of
commercial value to the bche-de-mer trade.
Despite the industry's long recorded history (pre-1700),
several factors have limited the stable development of
this potentially lucrative trade in places such as Fiji,
Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. These factors
include limited resource susceptible to over-exploitation,
often resulting in destruction of the resource, poor prices
paid to primary producers, transport difficulties and
local unfamiliarity with correct production methods, resulting
in below standard quality and poor demand.
In 1987, the
PFDF and the UOG ML initiated project activities with
the goal of investigating the sustainable development
of sea cucumber fisheries in Micronesia and determine
its mariculture potential. The project objectives were
to provide data on naturally occurring stocks of sea cucumber
and investigate/develop culture techniques of selected
sea cucumber species for augmenting natural stocks via
mariculture. Studies included basic biological research
related to determining proper management strategies. Natural
product studies, product processing, and marketing techniques
were also to be explored. Education of Micronesian
students and labor sources was emphasized for eventual
technology transfer to island economies. Research
was centered at the UOG ML and went on for almost seven
The PFDF was
the primary recipient for the first three years of the
study, but the last two awards went directly to the UOG
ML. The project was transferred from the PFDF to
UOG on the Foundation's closure and activities were also
disrupted twice by typhoons which destroyed experiments.
Research centered on three species of cucumbers, Holothuria
nobilis, Actinopyga mauritiana, and Thelenota
ananas. Resource surveys were completed in
Palau, Guam, Saipan, and the FSM (Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei).
Data collected indicate these animals are limited by poor
recruitment success, and natural stocks are easily overfished.
Activity eventually concentrated on larval rearing activities.
focused at varying the diets and substrates of the juvenile
cucumbers and revealed for the first time the final steps
of larval development, thereby closing the life cycle
of two of the three species. Research resulted in regularly
producing Holothuria nobilis and Actinopyga
mauritiana to the pentactula stage, but Thelenota
ananas only went as far as the doloaria stage.
Experiments suggested that monocultures of algae are insufficient
to provide the larval stages of sea cucumber sufficient
energy resources for complete development. Ranging
experiments using tag and recapture methods indicate these
animals to be sessile with limited movements. Sufficient
biological data was collected to convene a three-day workshop,
focusing in the creation of a model sea cucumber management
plan (the first for Micronesia). The workshop, which brought
together most of the U.S.-affiliated States chief fishery
officers allowed the dissemination of the biological data
and the formulation of a management plan for developing
sea cucumber resources on a sustainable basis. The
plan developed is generic in nature but allows each specific
site in Micronesia to consider options from a menu of
possibilities. The plan also includes economic information
and provides the basis for a data collection program.
ran for five awards (the greatest number approved for
any western Pacific-based initiative). While no particular
award's scope was modified per se, the project did evolve
from what was initially an initiative to investigate mariculture
potential to one in which the sustainable management of
existing natural populations became the main project goal.
Administratively, while there were many disruptions, awards
ran 21 months on average, and each award's final report
was typically submitted late. The project is rated as
marginally successful regarding administrative matters.
Most of the project objectives were obtained and
the project is rated operationally successful, (with exception
of developing mariculture techniques for tropical holothurians).
This objective appears to be particularly elusive.
Recently ICLARM has begun the first 5 of a 15-year research
initiative to explore the mariculture potential of this
group of animals.
The total project
costs were $534,108 of which $247,915 went to direct costs.
The total project costs include $42,144 of in-kind, with
the balance going to the indirect costs of the PFDF or
UOG ML and S-K administration program costs (the later
IS estimated alone at $161,415 for the five awards).
No quantitative benefits could be identified; therefore,
an NPV or B/C calculation proved impossible. There are,
however, several qualitative benefits that should be noted:
project resulted in the development of a generic sea cucumber
Management Plan for Micronesian states. The plan
allowed SPC personnel to advise resource managers in Fiji
and Papua New Guinea on sustainable resource extraction
rates. The PI provided advice to Ecuadorian officials
for better management of the Galapagos sea cucumber fishery.
on the basic biology of the sea cucumber was determined.
This information is detailed in several master's theses
and a number of publications including primary literature
least three Micronesians were trained in sea cucumber
biology, one at postgraduate level.
general moratorium on export harvests in Palau and portions
of the FSM has been instituted because of the need to
use precautionary management principles in view of the
lack of mariculture alternatives.