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From the sea to the market place: an examination of the issues, problems and opportunities in unravelling the complexities of sea cucumber fisheries and trade

Mark Baine

University of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea

Abstract

This paper, using available published information and an exploratory questionnaire, presents the difficulties associated with the collation of official statistics on sea cucumber catch, effort and trade. It highlights specific problems associated with the identification of catch origins, illegal landings and trade, trans-boundary effects, taxonomic problems, confusing beche-de-mer categorisation, inadequate monitoring and a lack of internal national prioritisations and funding. It concludes with a clear presentation of the issues that need to be addressed and an analysis of the possible means by which to do so.

Keywords: Holothurians, beche-de-mer, marine resource management, conservation

Introduction

More and more in recent years, concern is being expressed at the health of worldwide sea cucumber populations and their management and trade (e.g. Bruckner et al., 2003). In this report, the author explores the problems and issues that have contributed to the current situation. Information was compiled from relevant, available literature, and is supported by the results of an international questionnaire exercise. The questionnaire sought the views and opinions of members of the Beche-de-mer Special Interest Group, co-ordinated through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, on the following main questions related to their country's sea cucumber fisheries:

The author stresses that this was not a thorough questionnaire exercise, but merely sought to provide information on specific aspects of sea cucumber fisheries in different countries. Of the representatives contacted for 35 islands and countries (or internal states), 20 (57 %) replied. Each representative had a recorded interest in sea cucumbers. These included representatives from Argentina, American Samoa, Brazil, the Cook Islands, China, Northern Mariana Islands, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Viet Nam, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Ecuador, Kiribati, Cuba and Western and Northern Australia. The Cook Islands, Northern Mariana and Marshall Islands' groups reported no organised fishery but only some evidence of subsistence fishing, as did American Samoa and Brazil. Argentina and Nauru reported no subsistence or commercial fishing activities. Representatives from other countries did not respond, one possible explanation being that contact details for the Special Interest Group require updating.

The holothurian resource

The Class Holothuroidea consists of around 1 200 species in total (FAO, 1990). Of these, the number of species thought to be subject to exploitation has risen over the past 10 years from 12 (Conand and Byrne, 1993) to over 30 (Bruckner et al., 2003; Conand, 1999), the latter identified as belonging to 3 families and 8 genera in total from the orders Dendrochirotida and Aspidochirotida. The highest diversity of holothurians occurs in the tropics where multi-species fisheries exist. Table 1 provides a snapshot of known target species, based on responses from the questionnaire exercise. This is not a definitive list.

Table 1. Target species, by country, identified by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

Holothuria scabra

H. scabra (var. versicolor)

H. edulis

H. nobilis

H. coluber

H. atra

H. leucospilota

H. fuscopunctata

H. fuscogilva

H. grisea

Actinopyga miliaris

A. echinites

A. lecanora

A. mauritiana

Thelenota ananas

T. anax

Stichopus chloronotus

S. hermanni

S. horrens

S. fuscus

A. japonicus

Bohadschia vitensis

B. argus

B. graeffei

B. marmorata

Isostichopus badiomotus

Australia



























- Western

X



X























- Northern

X


























China PR





















X






Cook Islands






X

X







X



X


X








Cuba


























X

Ecuador (Galapagos)




















X







Indonesia

X


X

X

X

X

X

X

X






X

X

X





X





Kiribati

X



X




X

X


X



X

X

X

X


X



X

X




Malaysia (Sabah)

X



X


X









X

X

X


X








Marshall Islands















X

X











New Caledonia (NP)

X



X




X



X



X

X


X










N Mariana Islands




X










X













Papua New Guinea

X


X

X


X

X

X

X


X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X




X

X

X



Philippines

X


X

X


X

X

X

X



X


X


X

X

X

X




X

X



Solomon Islands

X

X

X

X

X



X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X



X

X

X

X


Viet Nam

X


























Despite this increase in economic importance and growing concern about their overexploitation in many countries (Baine and Choo, 1999; Conand et al., 1998; Ibarra and Soberon, 2002; Moore, 1998; Schoppe, 2000; Trianni, 2002), the population biology and ecology of many holothurian species remains unclear. Conand (1999) notes the need for research to focus on biology and ecology, and economics and management. Samyn (2000) calls for the following improvements in our basic scientific understanding of holothurians, based on experience in Kenya, in order to fully optimise conservation and management plans:

Bruckner (2003) notes the inadequacy of existing biological information on exploited species in most fisheries. Even in those countries with regulated fisheries, information on growth, recruitment and mortality is scant, except perhaps for high value species. The lack of such information seriously impedes the determination of sustainable yields. Furthermore, the lack of any detailed biological data, including biomass estimates and distribution, undermines the ability to measure the effectiveness of voluntary or imposed management measures, and in the absence of scientific justification, may also breed mistrust and contempt among fishers.

Capture, processing and trade

Holothurians are consumed in a variety of ways, however, the most significant product is the dried body wall, commonly known as beche-de-mer. This form is particularly favoured by Chinese consumers. Species can be regarded as high, medium or low value with respect to their market demand and processed condition. High value species presently include the sandfish (Holothuria scabra), the black teatfish (H. nobilis) and the white teatfish (H. fuscogilva).

A variety of fishing techniques exist, including hand collection at low tide, scuba and hookah in deeper waters and trawling and spearing. Processing methods are well documented (e.g. SPC, 1994) and can vary for different species and in different regions. Processing may be carried out by the fishers themselves or by dedicated processors who may also export to international markets such as Hong Kong SAR (China), Singapore and Taiwan (Province of China). Fishers may also sell to processors who then sell to exporters. Beche-de-mer is then exported to consumer countries. This valued product may also be sold within the country of origin, depending on consumer demand. Conand and Byrne (1993) and Conand (2001) describe the complexity of routes between fisher and consumer as consisting of at least 5 levels, with numerous interactions occurring between each level. These levels are identified as:

(1) the natural resource and its environment;

(2) capture by fisherman;

(3) processor/exporter/customs;

(4) international trader; and

(5) consumer.

It is not uncommon for a country to simultaneously have a fishery, and also be exporting, importing and consuming beche-de-mer, e.g. Malaysia (Baine and Choo, 1999).

It is this complexity and array of possible interactions that makes it difficult to assess the status of a fishery. Conand and Byrne (1993) and Conand (2001) for each of their identified levels of interaction, offer potential sources of statistics. These are:

(1) scientific surveys;

(2) sampling of the catch;

(3) sampling of processed products and/or national export statistics;

(4) international trade statistics; and

(5) national import statistics.

Unfortunately, the presence of accurate and reliable statistics is a problem for most holothurian fisheries, a problem magnified by the previously mentioned inadequacy of biological studies. Where statistics do exist, they may also be erratic, confusing or have a dubious origin, such as the contrast within national and between national and international statistics for Malaysia (Baine and Choo, 1999). Tuwo and Conand (1992) note discrepancies in international statistics for Indonesia. Kinch (2002) recognises differences between production and export data in export figures for Papua New Guinea. Possible reasons cited in this instance include incomplete datasets, point of export not always equating to harvest point, and the lack of recordings of wastage. Abdulla (1998) notes the unreliability of statistics in Mozambique, while Holland (1994) highlights the lack of official data in the Solomon Islands. These are only some examples.

Table 2 shows information recorded from the questionnaire exercise, related to official statistics. Multiple entries against a country/island represent responses from different sources within that country/island. As can be seen there is a division of opinion on the accuracy of official statistics in the Philippines. Problems highlighted include non-declaration of fishing activities, lack of regulation, small operational fisheries, unrecorded catches and lack of statistics for domestic distribution of catch. Overall, official statistics are reported as representing between 50-100 % of total catch, depending on location.

Table 2. Comments on official statistics provided by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

Do official statistics accurately reflect the level of catch and effort?

Estimated percentage of overall catch

Australia (Northern)

Y



China PR

N

No fisheries statistics. Landings data collected for aquaculture.

50%

Cook Islands

N

No statistics. Unregulated fishery.

N/A

Cuba

Y



Ecuador (Galapagos)

Y

Isolated cases of illegal harvest.

95%

Indonesia*

N
N
N


50%
<50%

Kiribati

N Y

Fishermen's data cross-checked with customs.

80%

Malaysia

N

Substantial catch goes unrecorded.

Unknown

N. Caledonia (NP)

N

Do not declare their activities. Not registered as professionals.

N/A

N Mariana Islands

Y

Export permit conditions.

100%

Papua New Guinea

Y

All exporters are licensed with provision of monthly buying summaries. Difficult to estimate fishing effort.

99%

Philippines

Y
N

Statistics mainly based on export volume. None for domestic.

60%

Solomon Islands

Y


95-100%

Viet Nam

N

No statistics. Small production.

Unknown

* Multiple entries against a country/island represent responses from different sources within that country/island.

A particular problem highlighted by Baine and Choo (1999) for Malaysia is the categorisation of sea cucumber products. National statistics show 2 categories, firstly "live, fresh, chilled or frozen" and secondly "dried, salted, in brine, smoked or boiled" against which tonnage is recorded. There is no separation, for example, between dried and salted, nor is there division into species. Such statistics cannot be used to influence management decisions as there is no way to accurately predict catch quantity or weight for individual species. Similar problems in terms of categorisation have been reported in the Northern Mariana Islands (Trianni, 2002), New Zealand, where sea cucumbers have been grouped together with sea urchins (Morgan and Archer, 1999), and Vanuatu (Jimmy, 1996). Table 3 indicates the different categories that are used to classify beche-de-mer in the countries of respondents to the questionnaire exercise. Caution is advised when interpreting this table as respondents from within the Philippines and Indonesia have provided different answers to the question posed. The author also notes that the question is not precise enough, with the definition of "official" open for interpretation.

A further problem within Malaysia is the inability to confidently identify the origin of catch. It is commonly known that exports from Sabah may include holothurians harvested in the waters of the Philippines (Baine and Choo, 1999). Another serious issue is the transboundary effects of a demand for sea cucumber products on Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia. Overfishing in the waters of this island has led to demand being met by fishermen from the neighbouring island of Adang in Thailand. Unfortunately, this supply of sea cucumber has meant illegal encroachment of Thai fishermen on internal marine reserve waters (Bussarawit and Thongtham, 1999).

The questionnaire exercise, however, indicates that this may not be a widespread problem. When asked about their confidence in the origin of sea cucumber catches, respondents from Viet Nam, Kiribati, Northern Mariana Islands, Ecuador, Philippines, Indonesia, Cuba, Solomon Islands and Australia all answered that landings originated from within their country's waters. Some possible exceptions include landings in Indonesia of sea cucumbers from Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. The Philippines representative also reported the possibility of Malaysian holothurians being landed in the Philippines. The only outright negative response to the question concerned New Caledonia where the respondent had no confidence in catches occurring solely within its waters, although other possible countries of origin were not suggested.

Table 3. Beche-de-mer classifications provided by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

How is beche-de-mer categorised in official statistics?

Australia (Northern)

Just a total catch figure.

China PR

Apostichopus japonicus

Cook Islands

N/A

Cuba

Other resources.

Indonesia

Other (volume and value).

Trepang (tonnes).

Trepang.

Kiribati

Other dried products (under their own name).

Malaysia (Sabah)

Dry, processed body covering.

N. Caledonia (NP)

Beche-de-mer (invertebrates).

N. Mariana Islands

Sea cucumber.

Philippines

Trepang, frozen, dried, salted/in brine.

"Exported seafood products" or "sea cucumber".

Solomon Islands

Sometimes to the species level.

Viet Nam

N/A

Illegal Fishing

Illegal sea cucumber fishing is not a prolific problem in countries with this resource. However, being such a lucrative market, it has caused major problems in certain areas. Historically, the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador has suffered high levels of illegal fishing, coinciding with increased migration to the islands. Fishers have been provided

with boats and motors financed by mainland and foreign traders (Martinez, 2001; Noble, 2001). The impetus to fish has been high and violent clashes with the Galapagos National Park Service have occurred in the past. Illegal fishing has also been recorded in Madagascar (Irwing, 1994), Malaysia (Baine and Choo, 1999), Mexico (Ibarra and Soberon, 2002), Papua New Guinea (Kinch, 2002) and Venezuela (Rodriguez and Marques Pauls, 1996). The questionnaire exercise (Table 4) additionally identifies illegal activities in New Caledonia, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands and Brazil as well as confirming such activities in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Equally, illegal fishing is not thought to occur in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, China PR, Ecuador (at present), and the Northern Territory of Australia.

Table 4. Information on illegal fishing supplied by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

Are you aware of illegal sea-cucumber fisheries and trade activities?

Australia (Northern)

N


Brazil

Y

Some private collection and consumption (Japanese).

China PR

N


Cook Islands

N

Suspicion that an opportunistic fishery may exist from transient fishermen.

Cuba

N


Ecuador (Galapagos)

N

Not at present.

Indonesia

Y

Indonesian fishermen fish in Australian waters.

Y

Fishing in foreign waters, smuggling pout of the country, deliberate under reporting.

Kiribati

N

Amount exported is not high.

Malaysia

Y

Especially not sparing spawning and immature individuals.

Marshall Islands

Y

Occurs on some atolls although species remain abundant.

N. Caledonia (NP)

Y

Fishermen do not declare their activities. No regulation of trade.

N. Mariana Islands

Y

Some personal use despite moratorium.

Papua New Guinea

Y

Mainly through one vessel in a remote area of the country.

Philippines

N

No clear regulations so no illegal fishing. Fishers do illegally fish Malaysian waters.

Y

Illegal fishing by trawl and some probable illegal exports.

Solomon Islands

N

All exporters are licensed - no limit on tonnes exported.

Viet Nam

Y

Regulation needed.

Management, Monitoring and Prioritisation

Adams (1993) presents South Pacific Commission (SPC) recommendations regarding the management of individual South Pacific holothurian fisheries. These recommendations are suggested by Adams (1993) as a basis for possible general principles for beche-de-mer fisheries management. The following list takes these recommendations and presents them in general terms:

Table 5 summarises the types of management tools that have been employed in some sea cucumber fisheries. This list does not represent current management regimes but merely gives an indication of the range of options that have been historically applied in different countries. More common measures relate to closures, quotas and export restrictions. As can be seen, a variety of management options have been employed in different combinations, or at different times. This is a common in many fisheries. In Papua New Guinea, for example, under the National beche-de-mer Fishery Management Plan, there is a combination of access restrictions, closures, Total Allowable Catches (TACs), Minimum Size Limits (MSLs) for 17 species, and storage and export licences (Desurmont, 2003). On the other hand, the only regulations reported for New Caledonia are self imposed by fishers and include harvesting seasons and size limits (Anon, 1993). It should also be noted that 30 % of the countries in Table 5 have reported no regulations.

When reviewing available information on holothurian fisheries, however, there are a number of readily identifiable general issues that should concern us:

In more direct terms the following are offered as main causes for concern in many holothurian fisheries:

1. Information on holothurian biology and ecology is lacking, as are basic stock assessments;

2. Holothurian products are in high demand, with holothurian fisheries potentially quite lucrative to fishers, particularly in the provision of stable livelihoods;

3. Holothurian fisheries and trade routes are complex and existing statistics do not inspire confidence when trying to estimate catches;

4. Management in most instances has been reactive to dwindling stocks presumably because of overfishing, with associated difficulties in measuring the effectiveness of management measures;

5. Enforcement of regulations and monitoring is a problem particularly in areas which are geographically isolated and in countries lacking financial and human resources; and

6. There is a lack of education and awareness programmes.

There have perhaps been two major consequences in the past decade as a result of these main problems and the slow progress in addressing them. Firstly, there has been increased interest in holothurian rearing and restocking, in an attempt to perhaps deflect effort away from wild resources in the future and/or to mediate for the social impact of dwindling wild resources. Secondly, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) has become involved.

Table 5. Management tools employed in sea cucumber fisheries, by country (and source).

Country

Closure, area limitation

Gear limitation

Quota or TAC

Limited access, permits

Export permits

Size limits

Export restrictions

Closed seasons

Storage licences

Voluntary

No management

Source

Australia

x

x

x

x








Beumer 1992; Uthicke and Benzie 2000

Ecuador

x


x





x




Martinez 2001

Fiji






x

x





Adams 1992

Indonesia











x

Bruckner et al. 2002

Kenya











x

Samyn 2000

Madagascar











x

Irwing 1994

Malaysia











x

Baine and Choo 1999;

Mexico

x





x


x




Castro 1995

Mozambique

x











Abdulla 1998

N. Caledonia










x


Anon 1993

N. Zealand



x









Morgan and Archer 1999

N. Mariana Is.

x




x


x





Trianni 2002

PN Guinea

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x



Desurmont 2003; Kinch 2002

Solomon Is.










x


Holland 1994

Thailand











x

Bussarawit and Thongtham 1999

Tonga


x




x

x

x




Anon 1996

Tuvalu











x

Belhadjali 1997

USA



x









Bradbury 1997; Woodby and Larson 1996

Vanuatu



x




x





Jimmy 1996

Venezuela




x








Rodriguez and Marques Pauls 1996

Table 6 summarises the main problems facing holothurian fisheries, as identified by questionnaire respondents for their respective countries. These are many and varied, ranging from a lack of basic information, limited funds and lack of education to illegal fishing, overexploitation and political bureaucracy.

Tables 7 and 8 provide details from the questionnaire exercise on monitoring and prioritisation of holothurian fisheries within respondents' countries. As can be seen, no monitoring exists in new Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Viet Nam, Kiribati, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Northern Territory of Australia. Where monitoring does occur it relates to administration in the Solomon Islands, purchase and export in Papua New Guinea, catch rates in Western Australia and conservation zones in China PR. It is only in the Galapagos where a comprehensive "from sea to the market place" monitoring regime exists. In terms of prioritisation of holothurian fisheries within these countries, a high level of support is only provided in the Galapagos Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Cuba and China PR. In China PR this relates mainly to aquaculture and sea ranching. It is worth noting that in Northern Australia, industry funds stock assessment and monitoring.

Table 6. Management problems identified by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

What do you consider to be the main problems facing the country/island in terms of sea cucumber fisheries management?

Australia (Northern)

Are current levels sustainable? Are other fishing methods available? Aspirations of the local indigenous people to be involved in the fishery.

China PR

Lack of education on farming and ranching techniques.

Cook Islands

Not recovered from historical overfishing. Unlikely in the future.

Cuba

Logistical support for the development of a stable fishery.

Ecuador (Galapagos)

Diminished resource, fishermen used to a lucrative, quick profit industry. Economic problems in Ecuador.

Indonesia

Overfishing.

Lack of regulations and reliable data, Poor safety record and unscrupulous exploitation of fishermen, Overfishing, lack of awareness and access to knowledge, Illegal practices.

Poverty, limited knowledge and trading system trap.

Kiribati

Hard to locate releases into the wild after reseeding.

Malaysia (Sabah)

Catch regulations and enforcement. Failure to recognise importance of stock enhancement and sea ranching.

N. Caledonia (NP)

Lack of information on landings, effort, catch origin, CPUE, density and biomass.

N. Mariana Islands

Lure of money and politics.

Papua New Guinea

Buying mainly by non-licensees (middlemen) who in most cases do not provide catch data.

Philippines

Cross border activities e.g. Philippines and Malaysia.

Overexploitation, resource management politics, R&D only began in 2000.

Solomon Islands

Lack of financial and technical input.

Viet Nam

Overexploitation. Limited funds.

Table 7. Information on monitoring supplied by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

Are sea cucumber landings monitored regularly?

Australia (Northern)

N


Australia (Western)

Y

Catch rates monitored but no attention to removals from particular locations.

China PR

Y

In conservation zones.

Cook Islands

N

No commercial landings.

Cuba

Y


Ecuador (Galapagos)

Y

Onboard vessels, daily at docks, processed product to traders, and airport control.

Indonesia*

N

Annual estimates.

N

Mostly based on guestimates and extrapolations. Under-reporting?

N

Middlemen move faster than officials.

Kiribati

N

Only at the point of export.

Malaysia (Sabah)


Unsure.

N. Caledonia (NP)

N

Only once a year based on voluntary declarations.

N. Mariana Islands

Y


Papua New Guinea

Y

Through the monthly buying summary as well as export documentation.

Philippines

N


N

People who should monitor are not there.

Solomon Islands

Y

Only at the time of export for paperwork purposes, not for stock management.

Viet Nam

N

No regulation.

* Multiple entries against a country/island represent responses from different sources within that country/island.

Table 8. Information on prioritisation supplied by respondents to the questionnaire exercise.

Country

Is a high level of priority placed on sea cucumber fisheries by government in terms of manpower and funds?

Australia (Northern)

N

Industry funds stock assessment and monitoring.

China PR

Y

Encouraged aquaculture and sea ranching, benefits wild resources.

Cook Islands

N

Occasional surveys on fishery feasibility. Recent proposals declined.

Cuba

Y


Ecuador (Galapagos)

Y

Sea cucumber fishery control plan.

Indonesia*

N

No priority.

N


N


Kiribati

Y

Important income generating activity.

Malaysia (Sabah)

N


N. Caledonia (NP)

N

Only funding of a repopulation programme.

N. Mariana Islands

N

Resource isn't that extensive.

Papua New Guinea

Y

Involves a high number of fishermen.

Philippines

N

Relative to other marine exports.

Solomon Islands

N

No management plan in place.

Viet Nam

N


* Multiple entries against a country/island represent responses from different sources within that country/island.

Discussion

As has been discussed throughout this paper there are many problems with the current status and management of holothurian fishery resources. These problems include a lack of information on the population dynamics of exploited species (including taxonomic difficulties), a lack of reliable fishery and trade statistics, illegal activities, a lack of effective regulations, and low state level prioritisation of this resource with associated knock-on effects on monitoring and enforcement. This final problem is one to take particular note of, as many countries do not view holothurians as a high priority resource, despite their ecological role and economic importance to small communities. One must also take into consideration any possible lack of interest from fishers and traders, with considerable evidence of widespread "boom and bust" fishing activities in reaction to current high market demands. This, however, can also be linked to a lack of educational awareness programmes. It is difficult to identify general approaches to the problems facing holothurian fisheries, as each fishery is unique and very dependent upon political factors within specific states.

Over the last two decades, the global exploitation of sea cucumbers has reached such high levels and raised such concern that a United States of America call, with multi-party support, has been made to consider the listing of the families Holothuridae and Stichopodidae in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (Bruckner et al., 2003). Following the CITES Conference of Parties (COP 12) in November 2002 in Chile, a draft decision was agreed which would look towards bringing experts together in workshops to discuss conservation and biological and trade information. The Animals Committee of CITES would examine the outcomes of these as well as additional material and would develop recommendations and a discussion paper to provide guidance on actions required to secure conservation status (Bruckner, 2003). However one views the input of CITES, be it positively or negatively, be it through the eyes of a conservationist, producer, importer, exporter, consumer, processor or fisher, as a reality and reflects some international concerns at the current status of sea cucumber populations and approaches to their management and trade.

The involvement of CITES is one new approach to the problems facing holothurian resources. It has a true international dimension, and is an approach that needs consideration. An Appendix II classification refers to species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction now, but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. International trade in Appendix II species may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, and that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

Such a measure does have its positive aspects, particularly in the provision of an international face to future management and trade in these species. It offers a watchful eye and would promote more international co-operation on sea cucumber fisheries management as well as more effective country, and even fisheries specific, monitoring and control.

There is a need, however, for countries to be willing and able to implement such a listing. There will always be the problem of illegal fishing and trade, but this could also be exacerbated by any CITES classification when viewed suspiciously by members of the beche-de-mer industry. This problem would be exacerbated even further with a lack of state resources to enforce management measures, coupled with political and other socio-economic issues that may be unique to any given state. It is also difficult to see where CITES can help in unravelling the complexities of fisheries and trade in these species.

There is much to be addressed in taking this route. Bruckner et al. (2003) identifies a number of general areas that need to be examined when considering the appropriateness of CITES, namely taxonomic uncertainties within the families, the ability to distinguish taxa in the form they are traded, the adequacy of biological information for making non-detriment findings, the ability to make legal acquisition findings and research needs. Each of these has its own extensive array of issues. To follow this route is a considerable undertaking and will require extensive international discussions and co-operation. It may well provide the necessary impetus for stronger action from the scientific community on many of the basic issues underlying holothurian resource management. On the other hand the potential impact on local communities and economies must be thoroughly understood. It will be interesting and informative to observe the progress and impact of the Appendix II listing of Hippocampus spp. (seahorses), which comes into effect on 15 May 2004.

Acknowledgements

Many people have contributed to this paper through the completion of questionnaires. I recognise their input and confidentiality. I would also like to thank Chantal Conand for, as ever, some useful comments.

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