Regional Management Plan for Sea Cucumber....
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GRANT NUMBER:  NA26FD0241-01          NMFS NUMBER: 91-SWR-053

REPORT TITLE:  Regional Management Plan for Sea Cucumber in Micronesia

AUTHOR:  Richmond, Robert; University of Guam Marine Laboratory

PUBLISH DATE:  November 1996

AVAILABLE FROM:  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 bˆche-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 years.

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.

Experiments 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.

This project 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:

1.  The 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.

2.  Information 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 journals.

3.  At least three Micronesians were trained in sea cucumber biology, one at postgraduate level.

4.  A 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.

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