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Status of sea cucumber fisheries and farming in Indonesia

Ambo Tuwo

Marine Ecology Laboratory, Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia

Abstract

Indonesia is the largest single-country archipelago in the world (8.3 million km2) consisting of 17 508 islands with 81 000 km of coastline. The estimate of the annual sustainable catch from Indonesia's marine resources is approximately 6.2 million tonnes. Coastal and marine areas of Indonesia provide a favourable habitat for many sea cucumber species that have been exploited for hundreds of years. Indonesia is the main exporter of sea cucumber in the world.

Fishermen exploit sea cucumber by using small and medium size fishing boats (<10 gross tonnage). They generally have a low capital base and limited technical skills in product handling and processing. Handling and post harvest processing practices are not of a high standard and as a consequence the quality and price of products are very low (US$ 1.92/kg at the fisherman's level). Other factors influencing the low price are the decline in the individual size being caught and also the catching of less valuable species.

There are four important regions for sea cucumber farming in Indonesia: Papua (378 tonnes wet weight per year), Central Sulawesi (200 tonnes), South East Sulawesi (3 tonnes) and East Kalimantan (1 tonne). However, not all of the sea cucumber reported as sea-farmed product is farmed, as some fishermen retain their catch, generally Holothuria scabra, in the cage or pond until the number of specimens is large enough to sell or process. The two main problems of sea cucumber farming in Indonesia are the long farming period and the low number of seeds available from the wild.

Continuous overfishing can affect the sustainability of Indonesian sea cucumber production. Over exploitation can accelerate destruction or depletion of sea cucumber populations. Based on internal (overfishing) and external (market) factors that influence Indonesian sea cucumber fishing and farming, new management and technical strategies have been proposed. These are: (1) promoting sustainable use/fishing; (2) restocking and seafarming; (3) introducing regulations on marketable size; and (4) improving post-harvest handling and processing.

Keywords: Exploitation, aquaculture, fisheries, trade

Introduction

Indonesia is the largest single-country archipelago in the world (8.3 million km2). Seventy per cent (5.8 million km2) of this area is ocean with 17 508 islands and 81 000 km of coastline. Indonesian coastal and marine areas are habitats for numerous renewable marine resources, such as fish and shrimp. The maximum sustainable yield of the Indonesian marine fishery is approximately 6.2 million tonnes per year, comprising large pelagic fish (1.05 million tonnes), small pelagic fish (3.24 million tonnes) and demersal fish (1.79 million tonnes) (Dahuri, 2002). Moreover, Indonesian coastal and marine areas are a favourable habitat for many sea cucumber species. There are at least 56 species of sea cucumber found in these areas (Massin, 1999). Some commercial species that are heavily exploited in Indonesia are Actinopyga echinites, A. mauritiana, A. miliaris, Bohadschia argus, B. vitiensis, Holothuria atra, H. edulis, H. fuscogilva, H. fuscopunctata, H. nobilis, H. scabra, H. scabra var. versicolor, H. coluber, Stichopus chloronotus, S. hermanni, Thelenota ananas and T. anax (Basri, 1997; Conand and Byrne, 1993; Conand and Tuwo, 1996; Darsono, 2002; Daud, 1989; Tuwo and Conand, 1996).

Trade

As of today, Indonesia is the largest sea cucumber exporter in the world. The main export destination is Hong Kong SAR (China) and indeed 40-80 % of Hong Kong's import of sea cucumber comes from Indonesia (Ferdouse, 1999; Tuwo and Conand, 1992). Other export markets for Indonesian sea cucumber are Japan, Korea Rep., Singapore, Taiwan PC, Malaysia and Australia.

The price of sea cucumber from Indonesia in the Hong Kong SAR (China) market is lower than that from Pacific island nations (Ferdouse, 1999). This lower price has also been observed in statistical data issued by the Industrial and Trade Office of South Sulawesi. The average annual price of Indonesian sea cucumber exported from South Sulawesi from 1996 to 2002 ranged from a high of US$ 15.06 per kg to a low of US$ 1.44 per kg during this period (Table 1).

Table 1. Annual volume and export value of sea cucumber from South Sulawesi, Indonesia (Anon, 2003).


1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Volume (tonnes)

359

853

399

192

146

457

241

Total Export (US$ million)

5.403

3.867

0.576

0.493

0.505

1.085

0.435

Unit value (US$/kg)

15.06

4.53

1.44

2.57

3.46

3.04

1.80

The price also fluctuates depending on target export market. During 2001 and 2002, the price was in the range of US$ 1.30-13.17 per kg (Table 2). This large price range is the result of the species composition of the catch, size and quality accepted in the markets. The acceptance in the market place of sea cucumber of different sizes can promote the over-exploitation of the natural sea cucumber resources.

In 2001, Taiwan PC imported significantly more valuable species than in 2002; whereas Hong Kong SAR (China) imported lower value species during both 2001 and 2002 (Table 2).

Table 2. Volume and value of sea cucumber exported from South Sulawesi, Indonesia, to different countries (Anon, 2003).

Destination

Volume

Value (US$)

2001

2002

2001

2002

tonnes

%

tonnes

%

Total

per kg

Total

per kg

Australia

0.3

0.1

-

-

550

2.00

-

-

Hong Kong SAR

256.0

71.7

194.9

81.0

344 687

1.35

253 581

1.30

Japan

83.5

23.4

-

-

667 457

111

-

-

Korea Rep.

8.5

2.4

9.4

3.9

45 816

5.39

70 534

7.50

Malaysia

0.6

0.2

0.2

0.1

1 200

2.00

641

3.62

Singapore

7.4

2.1

33.6

13.9

14 003

1.90

105 356

3.14

Taiwan PC

0.8

0.2

2.7

1.1

11 560

13.71

4 792

1.78

Total

357.1


240.8


1 085 275

3.04

434 905

1.81

Moreover, the prices also depend on size. This is even evident in local markets where the price of large H. scabra (8-12 specimens/kg) is around US$ 80 per kg, whilst small specimens (20-30 specimens/kg) are only US$ 7-8 per kg (Ngitung, pers. comm.).

The low price might also reflect a lower standard of post-harvest processing. Commonly, these three factors influence the export price of sea cucumber. However, it should be noted that exporters also influence the price, as they have been known to manipulate the price to reduce taxes. It is very likely that the price of sea cucumber exported from South Sulawesi has been manipulated as, for example, the local price at Barrang Lompo Island (Table 3) is much higher than the export price issued by the Industrial and Trade Office of South Sulawesi (Table 2).

Table 3. Species and price of sea cucumber at Barrang Lompo Island, Spermonde Archipelago, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Species

Makassar Name

English Name

Price* (US$ per kg dry weight)

Varying sources of data

Source of data - Salamba (2003)

Patrons

Collectors

Exporters

Actinopyga echinites

Kassi

Redfish

9.41 -10.00 1

6.38

7.33

7.65

A. mauritiana

Ballang ulu

Surf redfish

9.411

8.03

9.88

-

A. miliaris

Kassi

Blackfish

9.411

6.38

7.33

7.65

Bohadschia argus

Binti, Patola

Leopard fish

1.06- 1.18 (fs**)1

3.14

3.88

4.12

B. vitiensis

Gatta, olok olok

Brownfish

1.06- 1.18 (fs)1

-

-

-

Holothuria atra

Cera

Lollyfish

1.18 (fi, rc)1

0.41

1.06

1.32

H. edulis

Cera

Pinkfish

1.18 (fi, rc)1

0.41

1.06

1.32

H. fuscogilva

Bissawa, koro, susu

White teatfish

14.12 (fs)1

24.20

26.62

24.31

H. nobilis

Batu, susu

Black teatfish

-

6.35

8.82

10.59

H. fuscopunctata

Kunyi

Elephant trunk

(rc, so)1

0.82

1.18

1.18

S. hermanni

Tai Kongkong

Curryfish

17.65-23.531

11.09

14.37

15.92

Thelenota ananas

Pandan

Prickly redfish

2.94 (fs)1

7.06

9.22

9.41

T. an ax

Donga

Amberfish

1.18 -2.35 or
0.29 (fs)1

0.34

0.94

-

H. scabra

Bangkuli Bangkuli

Sandfish

35.29 - 47.06 2

-

-

-

H. scabra var. versicolor


Spotted sandfish

47.06 - 58.82 3

-

-

-

H. scabra /H. scabra var. versicolor

Bangkuli

Sandfish/ Spotted sandfish

7.06 - 8.24 (ss);
70.59 (bs)4

-

-

-

*: exchange rate 1 US$ = Rp. 8 500.

** bs: big size; fs: fresh specimen; ss: small size; rc: rarely captured; so: soliter.

Sources: 1. personal communication with collector at Barrang Lompo Island; 2. Makassar collector; 3. Surabaya exporter; 4. personal communication with patron at Saugi Island.

Fishery

The total catch of Indonesian sea cucumber cannot be estimated properly as some captured specimens are not recorded by the Fishery Office. This under estimation of catch is due to very limited access of the fisheries officers to the sea cucumber landing sites. A simple calculation from the catch and export data (Table 4) shows that the total catch figures, as issued by the Fishery Office, are less than 25 % of the real capture levels as evidenced by export figures.

Most of the Indonesian sea cucumber production is from natural populations. Fishermen catch the sea cucumber from small and medium fishing boats of less than 10 tonnes gross weight. The patron or ponggawa is usually the owner of the boat.

The exploitation of sea cucumber in Indonesia is an important contributor to the economic development of coastal and small island communities. For this reason, the sea cucumber population has to be managed properly to sustain its economic, and also ecological, benefits. The decreasing export volume is an important indication to the stakeholders that more effective management needs to be in place. During the last twenty years, the statistics show fluctuations in the catch figures (Table 4).

Table 4. Sea cucumber catch (wet weight), total export and export to Hong Kong SAR (dry weight) from Indonesia during the last twenty years (Anon, 2002a; Tuwo and Conand, 1992).


Volume (tonnes)

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

Catch (ww*)
(Anon, 1991, 2002a)

n.a.

275

232

456

351

478

351

840

1 450

1 722

Total Export (dw*)
(Tuwo and Conand, 1992)

878

840

1 518

2 161

3 890

3 670

4 605

4 755

4 888

4 679

Export to Hong Kong SAR
(Tuwo and Conand, 1992)

658

608

1 232

1 266

3 185

2 342

2 877

3 644

3 040

3 438


1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Catch (ww*)
(Anon., 1991, 2002a)

2 465

2 113

2 364

3 132

2 562

2 442

3 138

3 058

2 617

3 041

* ww: wet weight; dw: dry weight.

Exploitation of sea cucumber in Indonesia has increased rapidly during the last 10 years. In Barrang Lompo Island, the number of medium-sized fishing boats (10 tonnes gross weight) increased from 4 to almost 50 boats in 2003 (Ical, pers. comm.).

The indication of over-exploitation is also evident from a low catch per unit effort (CPUE). The CPUE of medium-sized fishing boats in Indonesian waters is very low, with each one month trip (with 6-8 divers) recording only 1 000 specimens, or 33 specimens per day. The same classification of boat operating in Australian waters in 1997 caught 2 500 specimens during a five-day trip, equivalent to 500 specimens per day (Ical, pers. comm.).

Some studies on natural populations of sea cucumber in Indonesian waters show that the exploitation rate is more than 0.5 (the maximum limit for sustainable exploitation). The exploitation rate of sea cucumber, H. scabra, in Saugi Island waters was 0.62 in 1999 (Eyrika, 1999). Ten years ago, fishermen using dogol (small trawls) caught 10-20 specimens per night or 3-7 specimens ofH. scabra per trawl (generally three trawls per night, three hours per trawl). But today, dogol catch only 1-2 specimens per night or 0.33-0.66 per trawl (Ngitung, pers. comm.). In fact, the fishermen catch only small H. scabra that are found in shallow waters. The fishermen at Saugi Island catch H. scabra with a size of about 3 specimens per kg wet weight. These are sold at US$ 0.12 for each specimen (Ngitung, pers. comm.).

Over exploitation is also happening in other parts of the Spermonde Archipelago, i.e. in waters of Bangko-Bangkoang Island. In 1997, the exploitation rate of curryfish, S. hermanni, captured by fishermen was 0.69. Any S. hermanni that are captured are generally of a small size. From 1 000 specimens of S. hermanni, 36.0 % were about 16.5 cm in length, 24.5 % were 27.3 cm, 19.9 % were 33.8 cm and 10.0 % were 40 cm (Basri, 1997).

Farming

Growing

The potential area for sea farming of sea cucumber in Indonesia is 720 500 ha (Dahuri, 2002). However, only a few areas are used, e.g. in East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, South-East Sulawesi, Molucca and Papua. The four most important regions are Papua (378 tonnes wet weight per year), Central Sulawesi (200 tonnes), South East Sulawesi (3 tonnes) and East Kalimantan (1 tonne) (Anon, 2002b). However, a part of the catch volumes reported as sea farming products were not really a product of sea cucumber farming, as some fishermen retain their catch, generally Holothuria scabra, in a cage or pond until the number of specimens is large enough to sell or process.

Sea cucumber farming in Indonesia is very important; utilising only 10 % of the potential farming area could increase sea cucumber production to about 180 125 tonnes dry weight per year. This figure is based on a density of 10 individuals per square metre, a harvest size of 250 g wet weight, a survival rate of 50 % and a water content of 80 %.

Sea cucumber (generally H. scabra) is farmed in cages of 20 × 20 m2 or 40 × 20 m2. The cage is generally located in shallow coastal areas (water depth: 75-100 cm). Other fishermen rear sea cucumber in fish ponds located near the coast.

Organic matter used to enrich the sediment includes paddy bran and animal dust (ratio 1:1) and is used at a level of 0.2-0.5 kg per m2 every two weeks. The organic matter is put into gunnysacks which are porous and allow a slow release of the nutrients. Each gunnysack can be filled with 10-15 kg of organic matter.

Holothuria scabra are harvested after 6 months of rearing when the individual size reaches 200-250 g (length 15-20 cm). The growth rate ofH. scabra is quite slow during farming. Martoyo et al. (1994) reported that H. scabra grows only 28-33 g wet weight per month. Experimentally, the growth rate of H. scabra can be increased to 32-73 g wet weight per month by treatment with different doses of organic matter (Pirdausi, 1989).

Seed Production

Recently, sea cucumber juveniles or seeds have been collected from the natural population. However, the demand from farming for seed is very high. For example, a cage of 400 m2 needs about 6 000 seeds at a density of 15-20 individuals per m2 (wet weight 30-40 g, length 5-7 cm) or 4 000 seeds for a cage density of 10-15 individual per m2 (wet weight 40-50 g, length 7-10 cm). To optimally utilise 10 % of the potential farming area, Indonesia needs about 7.2-14.4 billion sea cucumber seeds per year.

The mass production of seeds in Indonesia faces many biological and technical problems. The main problem is how to find viable broodstock (Handoko, 2002). Even though the sea cucumber, H. scabra, spawns continuously during the year (Tuwo, 1999), it is difficult to find mature broodstock. Generally, H. scabra releases its intestine (evisceration) and dies just after catch and these specimens cannot be used as broodstock. Another problem is that artificial spawning methods, such as thermal shock and desiccation, can also lead to evisceration.

Martoyo et al. (1994) and Tuwo et al. (1996) have tried to obtain mature eggs by dissection of sea cucumber and by taking the egg or sperm for fertilization. This method is ineffective and the number of eggs fertilized is very low, less than 20 % of total eggs spawned. Mass production of seeds in hatcheries has been tried on many occasions, but the results have been so far unsatisfactory due to low hatching rates (1-20 %) and larval survival rates (0.1-0.2 %) (Handoko, 2002).

Handling and post-harvest process

Post-harvest processing of sea cucumber can be done on the fishing boat or on land. A medium sized fishing boat (10 tonnes gross weight) usually processes their catch on board and returns to port with dried products (Ical, pers. comm.). Generally, onboard processing produces higher quality sea cucumber which, in turn, increases the price.

In contrast, small fishing boats process their catch on land. Generally, fishermen are poorer and have a lower skill level in proper handling and processing. As a consequence, the quality and price of the products are low (about US$ 2/kg at the fishermen level). Improving the handling and post-harvest practices can increase the economic return.

The processing steps used to produce the final product in Indonesia are the following: removing the internal organs, boiling the clean sea cucumber, air drying, fumigation, sun drying, packing and storage. The internal organs are removed by slicing lengthwise on the ventral face. The sea cucumber is then boiled in seawater for 20-30 minutes. Air drying is used to remove the surface water after boiling and the product is fumigated using wood and/or coconut shells for 10-20 hours. Finally, the sea cucumbers are sun dried.

Final remarks

From the above description, it is apparent that there are five main problems found in sea cucumber fisheries and farming in Indonesia. These are (1) unsustainable use/fishing; (2) low seed availability; (3) low growth rate; (4) no market regulation; and (5) poor post-harvest handling and processing.

Continued overfishing can affect the sustainability of Indonesian sea cucumber production. Over-exploitation can accelerate destruction and/or depletion of the sea cucumber population. Based on internal factors (such as the vast sea cucumber resources, over-exploitation and poor post-harvest processing) and external factors (such as a high market demand) that influence the Indonesian sea cucumber fishing and farming sectors, it is proposed that some alternative development strategies are used.

These are: (1) promoting sustainable use/fishing by co-management; (2) improve restocking and seafarming by developing sea cucumber hatchery and farming practices; (3) introducing a minimum size for each species of sea cucumber; and (4) upgrading post-harvest handling and processing by improving the skill levels of fishermen.

Therefore, the general objectives of these strategies are: (1) to sustain the production and ecological benefits; (2) to rehabilitate habitats and populations that have been over-exploited and to increase production levels; (3) to produce environmentally friendly products; and (4) to improve competitiveness and economic benefits.

References

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