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Sea Cucumber Aquaculture To Deliver Real Benefits

17 February 2011

AUSTRALIA - Stocks of high-value sea cucumber species have been chronically over-exploited throughout the Asia-Pacific region, as elsewhere in the world.

They are in great demand, not only for food but also for their reported medicinal and supposed aphrodisiac qualities, particularly among the Chinese.

Collected by divers in deep water and by women and children in the shallows, sea cucumbers are dried before being sold to traders. The market price for dried sea cucumber can top 200 AUD a kilo, which makes them an important source of cash income for many poor and remote coastal communities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

While better overall fisheries management is needed, for a small number of species, farming in ponds and sea-ranching promise to boost production, thereby taking the pressure off wild stocks so their numbers can be restored.

This is the topic of the Asia-Pacific Tropical Sea Cucumber Symposium, held in Noumea, New Caledonia, and funded jointly by the Australia Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Professionals have been invited from countries which are actively engaged in improving tropical sea cucumber culture technology and developing its potential to deliver benefits to coastal communities.

From 14 to 17 February they will review the current research and technical status of this valuable resource, covering topics such as hatchery technology, release strategies, farming techniques, management practices and post-harvest handling.

Participants will gain an overview and update about the latest developments in the science of tropical sea cucumber aquaculture in order to inform regional and national policy-making and to identify the most promising ways to increase production of this lucrative commodity. Technology for value-adding, supply chains and marketing, policy implications of emerging aquaculture practices and release strategies for sea cucumber (with particular emphasis on the sandfish, Holothuria scabra) are also essential issues of the sector.

The recent ACIAR work in the Asia-Pacific region, together with relevant research from other parts of the world, will be used to identify gaps in current knowledge and generate recommendations for future research or policy work needed to support development of sustainable tropical sea cucumber aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region.

An informal Pacific Islands session was held on the 14 February where the participants engaging in sea cucumber aquaculture provided an update report on the status of sea cucumber culture in their country. This provided an overview of the developments in sea cucumber aquaculture from the Pacific Islands countries to the Symposium.

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