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Sea Cucumber Hatchery Project Expands to Fiji

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FIJI - After setting up the Pacific's first commercial sea cucumber hatchery in Vanuatu, two aquaculturalists, Paul Ryan and Poasi Fale Ngaluafe, are planning to expand the project to Fiji.

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Mr Ryan said some sea cucumbers are highly prized by the Chinese for various attributes in the dried form beche-de-mer, the FijiTimes reports.

He said the golden sandfish and the prickly red were highly valued sea cucumber species that provided a substantial income from sales to the Asia market.

"Sea cucumber is a high value fisheries resource in the region because of the high demand in the Asian market especially mainland China.

"The sea cucumbers are collected from the wild and processed into dry products known as beche-de-mer (trepang) then exported to the Asian market.

"As a result of the significant support of the livelihoods of most people within the coastal areas of the Pacific, some of the countries in the region have placed moratoriums and banned for any commercial harvest such as PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Vanuatu until recently, as a way to revive the natural stock."

He said artificial propagation or hatchery production was one of the fisheries management tools that boosted stock through enhancement programmes throughout the Pacific region on a long-term basis.

"Working with the communities is the key roles for the success of the sea cucumbers ranching or stock enhancement programme as the outcomes of the hatchery production.

"Communities can also undertake training upon how to process good quality products or beche-de-mer in a way that they can earn increased revenue from their resources." The pair studied aquaculture in Australia and met during orientation day at the University of Tasmania.

During the infancy of the Australian aquaculture industry, Mr Ryan said they had long-term goals that aimed to secure the needs of the Pacific during the 1990s.

"The establishment of environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry throughout the Pacific nations has undergone an enormous leap forward," he said.