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Sea cucumber fishery and mariculture in Madagascar, a case study of Toliara, southwest Madagascar

Richard Rasolofonirina[28] [29], Edouard Mara[30] and Michel Jangoux[31] [32]


Abstract

The sea cucumber fishery is a permanent activity in coastal regions of Madagascar, especially near coral reefs. Production of Malagasy trepang is based on family or artisanal fisheries and the resource is entirely exported to Asian countries. The first exports were recorded in Madagascar in 1920 with about 40 tonnes of trepang from 3 species. Exports varied then annually from 50 to 140 tonnes. Since 1990, harvesting of sea cucumbers greatly increased and resulted in the overexploitation of the resource. The maximum intensity of the export was recorded in 1994 with 540 tonnes of trepang, and then it declined. The number of species collected shifted from eight in 1990 to twenty-eight in 1996. Currently, more than twenty-five species are exploited. The harvested species, however, vary according to the market price, the international demand and their availability. Holothuria scabra, Holothuria nobilis, Holothuria fuscogilva, Thelenota ananas are the main collected species. Declining exports and strong competition between collectors indicate over-exploitation of the resources and this affects the local economy and the environment. The situation of some fishermen villages in the Toliara province (south-west of Madagascar) is presented. A survey of the production of the main harvested species over one year was performed and the changes in techniques concerning the processing of sea cucumber during the last seven years are exposed. Aquaculture is considered as a solution to solve the problem of sea cucumber over-exploitation. A hatchery has been built in Toliara in 1999/2000 thanks to funds obtained from the Belgian "Coopération Universitaire au Développement". The larval development and metamorphosis of the species Holothuria scabra are now under control. An additional project is being considered that aims to master the growth process of post-metamorphic sea cucumbers.

Keywords: Sea cucumber, fishery, Madagascar, beche-de-mer processing, mariculture

Introduction

Sea urchins and sea cucumbers are echinoderms exploited in Madagascar. Sea urchins are fished for local consumption and sea cucumbers for the preparation of 'trepang' that is exported mostly to Asian markets. Sea cucumber harvesting is a traditional activity in Madagascar (Conand et al., 1997). Since 1920, Hindu people exploited and exported sea cucumbers to Asian countries (Petit, 1930). This activity developed progressively from early nineties. After reaching significant tonnage (nearly 600 tonnes, which represents more than 6 000 tonnes fresh weight) in 1991 and 1994, official trepang exports showed a significant decline (Rafalimanana, 1997). Exports increased again more recently with about 980 tonnes being exported in 2002. The available data, however, are insufficient to diagnose and analyse current over-exploitation. Indeed the fishing sector is quite complex and analysis is needed at different levels (Conand, 1997a, 1997b).

As in other countries, five main levels should be considered in Madagascar (Conand, 1997a): (1) the abundance and diversity of the resource; (2) the harvesting by fishermen; (3) the processing into trepang (which may be carried out by fishermen or other villagers); (4) the number of intermediate levels in the commercial and administrative chain (collectors, operators, exporters, national and regional Governments - Fisheries Departments, Customs, etc.); and (5) the exports of the product to international markets.

In the Toliara region (south-west of Madagascar), the fishery is a traditional activity. Fishermen collect various resources on the reef flat during the low tide, such as shellfish, urchins, octopus and sea cucumbers (Rosa, 1997; Salimo, 1997; Rakotonirina, 2000). The sea cucumber fishery is very intense in the Toliara region and on the west coast of Madagascar. Current signs of over-exploitation are a declining quality, a decrease in product size, the use of illegal material for harvesting (216 diving tanks were seized in 2002 - L'express de Mada, N° 2 379), the strong competition between collectors (Conand et al., 1998), and the exploitation of fishing areas out of Malagasy waters. In May 2001, 110 fishermen were arrested in Seychelles for illegal exploitation of sea cucumbers (Madagascar Magazine, 3 May 2003).

In that context various actions have been undertaken since 1990 by scientists, professional organisations and the government to monitor fishing, fishery organisation, catches and marketing in many coastal villages both in the Toliara province and in the rest of the country. Conand (1998, 2001) reviewed the status of world sea cucumber fisheries in the entire world and gave perspectives for mariculture. Sea cucumber hatchery and culture are practised in some countries, such as Japan, China and India (James, 1994; James et al., 1995).

Material and methods

Studies sites

Madagascar is a large island in the South Indian Ocean region. It is located east of the African Continent (FAO Area 51). The coastal area is 5 603 km long and the exclusive marine economic zone is 1 140 000 km2.

Most of the people in the coastal regions are dependent on fishery resources and many regions in the west are surrounded by coral reef where traditional fishing is still very active. Figure 1 shows the main sea cucumber fishing areas.

Identification of the species

Specimens of sea cucumbers from the fishermen or from natural habitats were transported to the Toliara Fisheries and Marine Sciences Institute ('Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines') for current identification.

Figure 1. Sea cucumber fishing areas (*).

Village survey

The Ankilibe village, near Toliara, was selected for comprehensive monitoring over an eight month period in 1996 and over one year in 2001 (October 2000 to September 2001).

Sea cucumber harvesters were asked daily by an investigator to get information on the total fishing time, the number of working individuals, the fishing sites, etc. Catches were examined before processing, in order to determine the exact species, the number of specimens for each species and the corresponding weights. From these data, average catch sizes and fishing effort on monthly basis, and catch per unit effort (CPUE) could be calculated. These data were also collected by observers appointed in the selected villages.

Investigation to operators and exporters

After harvesting, the products are gathered by collectors in various villages and operators or exporters in the towns. The marketing channel was determined through surveys carried out in various villages and in the city of Toliara. It concerns the different marketable species: their price, the monthly or annual quantity harvested, their origin and destination. It was very difficult to obtain information concerning quantity and price of trepang from exporters because of distrust.

Investigation to administration services

Statistical information concerning the production of trepang was obtained from the Provincial Service of Marines Resources (SPRH) of Toliara, the INSTAT (National Institute of Statistics) and the Statistic Service in Fishing and Marines Resources Office.

Exploitation system and its recent change

Four levels have been taken into account that are: (1) the fisherman (he catches the sea-cucumbers and sells them to the collector); (2) the collector (he buys the sea cucumbers from various fishermen, process them as trepang and sell them to operator); (3) the operator (he buys batches of trepang from various collectors, gathers them together and sell them to the exporter; (4) the exporter (he sends the trepang to overseas markets).

The first exploitation system for sea cucumber in Madagascar was the traditional or familial fishery. Since 1990, the system has changed to an artisanal or semi-industrial fishery. The increase of international demand for trepang, the scarcity of sea cucumbers in shallow waters and the competition between collectors drive the fishermen (and some collectors) to use specialised underwater equipment to explore deeper sea areas off the coastal villages.

Traditional or familial fishery system

It is the only system practised in the Toliara Province. Harvesting is done by a few individuals from a single family. It does not require any particular fishing material or a significant investment. Most of the time, fishermen use a canoe propelled by sail or paddles. For collecting sea cucumbers, they use a jut bag or a bucket and sometimes a diving mask. In some villages located near a fringing reef, fishermen walk on the reef flat at low tide.

In the Toliara region, fishing is mainly performed by foot at low tide on the reef flats. Snorkelling is rather infrequent and occurs only at neap tides. Fishing with diving gear or trawling is not performed in the area, although these techniques are used elsewhere (Rasolofonirina and Conand, 1997). Some family members (or the whole family) go fishing in the morning and come back in the afternoon. They fish in the nearest part of the reef, rather close to their village. In some villages of Toliara, fishermen also practise fishing at night. They go to the reef flat during the spring low tide at full moon and use a torch to find the sea cucumber.

The work is divided up among the members of the family. Usually, the father prepares and sails the boat while all other members take part in the harvesting. The time needed to reach the main reef is comparable for all villages, from 30 to 60 minutes depending on weather conditions. At the fishing site and particularly in the seagrass beds, the families work in groups of two or three and harvest sea cucumbers as well as other reef resources (e.g. octopus, shellfish, crabs). Women are in charge of processing and selling the catch. They sell either the fresh product to a collector from the same village or the processed products to an operator or exporter in town.

Artisanal fishery

The artisanal fishery is performed by using motorised canoes or boats, which have to be registered. This requires some investment. Motorised canoes or boats are equipped with an out- or in-board engine, an autonomous compressor and diving material (diving tank and accessories). Larger boats may be used as floating camp sites, or the fishermen have camping material for land-based camp sites.

Groups of salaried peoples are formed. The number of persons in one exploitation group varies from 3 to 200 depending on the financial power of the manager. He provides material and food, and buys the product (sea cucumbers) by piece from the divers. Harvesting is done by SCUBA diving even though it is illegal - SCUBA diving is very difficult to control. The use of diving tanks has rapidly developed since 1992.

Each fishing boat carries three to eight divers. One man stays onboard both for security reasons and to receive the catch. Each fisher dives two to ten times per day, which represents from four to six hours diving time. After a given period of time (from a few days to several weeks), the groups move towards another site. The divers usually remain onboard or in the camp during the exploitation period.

In short fishing expeditions, the products are immediately processed after fishing when the conditions are adequate (weather, availability of wood for cooking, water and space). Otherwise, sea cucumbers are salted and processed after returning to the village. After processing, the trepang is sent to the nearest port or to Antananarivo, and exported to the international market.

In Toliara, some changes were observed recently in the collection system. A single exporter located in town monopolises the local trepang market. He pays the collectors in advance, the latter consequently not being allowed to sell their products to other operators or exporters. Yet, most of the time, the fishermen of a given village sell their sea cucumber to a village collector. The collector processes the sea cucumbers and sells them to an operator located in town. Collectors often pay the fishermen in advance. This creates strong economic links.

Species exploited and production

Species exploited

About thirty species of commercial sea cucumbers exist in the Toliara region (Table 1). While all these species are not collected in the region, the number of harvested species has increased.

About twelve high and medium value species are traditionally harvested, but with the increase in international demand and the dwindling of the resource, fishermen are now collecting other less valuable species (Conand et al., 1997c). More than twenty species are presently collected in the country. From 1920 to 1930, three species only were exported to the Asian market (Petit, 1920). This number increased to eight in 1990 (Rasoarinoro, 1990), and to eighteen in 1995 (Mara et al., 1996). Now, in Toliara, all edible species are being harvested. The actual catches differ according to the price, and their occurrence in the field.

For instance, Holothuria maculosa was not exploited before 1996. At that time its price was low (1 500 to 3 000 Fmg/ kg) and its abundance very high (60 000 holothurians/ha) (Mara et al., 1997). In 2000, other less valuable species were exploited and the price ofH. maculosa increased to 6 000 Fmg/kg. Now, that species is intensively exploited and the price reaches as much as 15 000 Fmg/kg. The main species exploited in Toliara are listed in the Table 1 (exploitation at family level).

Table 1. Species ofholothurians exploited in the Toliara region.

Species identified

Exploitation over the years

1920 (1)

1990 (2)

1996(3)

2002


HOLOTHURIIDAE





1

Actinopyga echinites(Jaeger, 1833)


+?

+

+

2

Actinopyga lecanora(Jaeger, 1833)



+

+

3

Actinopyga mauritiana(Quoy and Gaimard, 1833)


+?

+

+

4

Actinopyga miliaris(Quoy and Gaimard, 1833)



+

+

5

Actinopyga sp.



+

+

6

Bohadschia marmorata(Jaeger, 1833)



+

+

7

Bohadschia subrubra(Quoy and Gaimard, 1833)



++

+

8

Bohadschia tenuissima(Semper, 1868)



+

+

9

Bohadschia vitiensis(Semper, 1867)



+

+

10

Holothuria scabra (Jaeger, 1833)


+

+++

+++

11

Holothuria scabra versicolor(Conand, 1986)


+

++

++

12

Holothuria atra(Jaeger, 1833)



+

+

13

Holothuria maculosa(Pearson, 1913)




+++

14

Holothuria excellens(Ludwig,1875)



+

+

15

Holothuria fuscogilva(Cherbonnier, 1980)


+

++

++

16

Holothuria nobilis(Selenka, 1867)


+

++

+

17

Holothuria edulis(Lesson, 1830)



+


18

Holothuria leucospilota(Brandt, 1835)



+


19

Holothuria cinerascens(Brandt, 1835)



+


20

Holothuria rigida (Selenka, 1867)




+

21

Holothuria arenicola(Semper, 1868)





22

Holothuria impatiens(Forskal, 1775)




+

23

Pearsonothuria graeffei(Semper, 1868)



+

+


STICHOPODIDAE





24

Thelenota ananas(Jaeger, 1833)


+

+

+

25

Stichopus chloronotus(Brandt, 1835)



+

+

26

Stichopus horrens(Selenka, 1867)



++

++

27

Stichopus hermanni(Semper, 1868)

+

+?

++

+

28

Stichopus sp.



+

++

Source: (1): Petit, 1920; (2): Rasoarinoro, 1990; (3): Mara et al., 1997 and Rasolofonirina, 1997. +: limit harvest; ++: harvested; +++: highly harvested; ?: uncertain level of harvesting.

For artisanal or semi-industrial fishing, a few species are intensively harvested. These are Holothuria fuscogilva, Holothuria nobilis, Thelenota ananas and Actinopyga miliaris.

Fishing Effort

In 1996, the number of fishermen in the region of Toliara was 3 702 with 153 originating from the village of Ankilibe (there were 10 collectors in that village in 1996 and 9 in 2002).

Table 2 indicates the fishing effort in the different investigated villages. In 1996, the highest daily fishing effort was observed in Morombe and Andrevo (117 and 108 fishermen hour/day, respectively). The minimum effort was observed in Androka a place where lobsters fishing is quite active (Mara et al., 1997). In Ankilibe, the monthly effort was estimated to 1 944 fishermen hour/month in 1996; it has increased to 4 382 in 2002, which clearly indicates the intensification of the exploitation.

Table 2. Mean Fishing Effort at some villages in the Province ofToliara in 1996. (Modified from Mara et al., 1997).

Villages in Toliara Province

Mean number of harvesting / period
(number/month)

Mean number of fishermen
(number/day)

Mean harvesting time
(hours/day)

Mean Fishing Effort(fishermen hours)

per day

per month

Morombe

20

39

3

117

585

Andavadoake

16

9

2

18

288

Lamboara

11

30

2

60

660

Salary Nord

26

10

2

20

520

Andrevo

24

27

4

108

2 592

Ifaty

27

18

2

36

972

Besakoa

13

17

3

51

663

Ankiembe

14

10

3

30

420

Ankilibe (1996)

27

18

4

72

1 944

Ankilibe (2001)

29

38

4

152

4 382

Anakao

13

13

2

26

338

Beheloka

22

14

2

28

616

Itampolo

12

3

2

6

72

Androka

12

6

1

6

72

Catch by Unit Effort

Figure 2 presents the variation of the catch by unit effort (CPUE) in Ankilibe village from September 2000 to September 2001. The CPUE varies from 4.96 kg to 10.67 kg of sea cucumbers per fisherman per day (corresponding to 16.5 to 35.57 sea cucumbers per fisherman per day). Holothuria scabra and Holothuriua scabra var. versicolor are the mains species harvested during this period. Others species were not or only occasionally harvested and formed a small part of the catch.

Figure 2. Monthly variation of the mean of Catch by Unit Effort (kg) in Ankilibe village. C/D/F: Catch/dayfisherman; C/H/F: Catch/ hour/fisherman.

Processing

Preparation of trepang usually implies boiling and drying. In general, processing procedure does not vary much to the conventional procedure described by FAO (1990). Processing of sea cucumber consists basically in eviscerating, boiling (about 30 minutes) and sun-drying individuals. Two techniques are applied depending of the species group.

For "sandfish species", forming the first species group, sea cucumbers are buried (after the first boiling) to facilitate the decomposition of the outer part of the body wall where calcareous spicules occur. This species group include Holothuria scabra, Holothuria scabra var. versicolor, Holothuria rigida, Holothuria maculosa and, particularly in Toliara area, Holothuria fuscogilva and Holothuria nobilis. Harvested "non-sandfish" species form the second group. In this group, specimens are not buried during the processing.

Local differences in sea cucumber processing may occur depending on the demand of the collectors or exporters (these are in turn probably linked to the demand of the importers). Changes in procedure have been observed since 1998 in Toliara. Fishermen and collectors have used various new techniques to either minimise loss of weight during the processing or to facilitate processing tasks. In 1998, fishermen proceed as follow for specimen from Holothuridae family. Individuals are first directly exposed to sun for two days, before being processed in the usual way (boiling, [burying] and drying).

Other changes are related to the location of the incision that is either mid-ventral (stichopodid species, H. scabra and H. scabra versicolor), mid-dorsal (Holothuria nobilis and H. fuscogilva) or anal (remaining species). For Holothuria scabra and Holothuria scabra var. versicolor, the incision recently changed to be anal (2 to 3 cm from the anus). In the north-east of Madagascar (Masoala Peninsula), some collectors ask that the peripharyngeal calcareous crown of some species are removed (e.g. Bohadschia spp.). Accordingly, the incision is an antero-ventral from the mouth that facilitates the removal of the peripharyngeal crown (Be, 2002).

From 1999, the use of salt during the processing occurred frequently in Toliara. Salting is done to limit desiccation, thus minimising loss of weight during processing. Eviscerated sea cucumbers are marinated or mixed with salt for two or three days, then processed as usual. Since 2002, the sea cucumber are marinated or mixed with salt for up to 48 hours after the first boiling. For larger species (Thelenota ananas, Holothuria fuscogilva and Holothuria nobilis), salt was put inside the individuals during the first two days of drying.

In 2000, fishermen cleaned or scraped the outer part of the body wall when individuals (Holothuria scabra and Holothuria scabra var. versicolor) were still living or were recently collected.

In 2002, some collectors used leaves of papaya trees to clean or remove the outer part of the body wall of sandfish. After the first boiling, they mixed the ground leaves of papaya with the sea cucumber for 5 to 15 minutes.

Marketing in traditional fisheries

In the past, fishermen themselves performed the whole trepang processing in the village. Yet, since the late nineties they sell their catch directly to the collectors who do the processing. Now, catches are sold as fresh product in many of the villages. Figure 3 represents the fishery flow in Toliara.

Figure 3. Fishery schema (from natural habitat to exportation) in Toliara. (Rasolofonirina, 1997).

Marketing in artisanal fisheries

Harvesting is done by groups of divers. The manager of the group buys the sea cucumbers by piece from the divers after harvesting. Then, they sell the processed product (trepang) to the exporter or export it themselves depending on their organisation.

Price

The price of the trepang increased during the late nineties due to competition between collectors and the increase demand in the international market. Sea cucumbers are divided in three categories depending on the species marketability (see Table 3).

Table 3. Selling price of trepang in Toliara in 1996 and 2002. (August 2003: 1 US$=6 190 Fmg).

Species

1996

2001-2002

Price of sea cucumber
(Fmg/piece)

Price of trepang
(Fmg/kg)

Price of sea cucumber
(Fmg/piece)

Price of trepang
(Fmg/kg)

CATEGORY I





Holothuria fuscogilva

250 - 4 000

13 000 - 35 000

10 000-17 500

35 000 - 60 000*

Holothuria nobilis

250 - 4 000

13 000 - 35 000

5 000- 17 500

35 000 - 60 000*

Holothuria scabra

2 000 - 7 500

25 000 - 75 000

1 000- 12 500

40 000 - 85 000*

Holothuria s. versicolor

500 - 7 500

25 000 - 75 000

1 000- 15 000

40 000 - 85 000*

CATEGORY 2





Actinopyga echinites

100 - 500

10 000-15 000

250 - 1 000


Actinopyga lecanora

150 - 700

3 000-15 000

250 - 1 000


Actinopyga mauritiana

100 - 500

10 000-15 000

250 - 500


Stichopus horrens

100 - 600

12 000-18 000

250 - 500

20 000 - 35 000*

Stichopus hermanni

100 - 600

12 000-18 000

250 - 1 000

20 000 - 35 000*

Stichopus sp.


12 000-18 000

250 - 500

20 000 - 35 000*

Thelenota ananas

100 - 500

3 000-15 000

5 000-10 000


CATEGORY 3





Actinopyga sp.

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Bohadschia subrubra

50 - 1000

4 500 - 8 000



Bohadschia marmorata

50 - 1000

4 500 - 8 000



Bohadschia tenuissima

50- 250

1 500 - 3 500



Bohadschia vitiensis

50 - 1000

4 500 - 8 000



Holothuria arenicola

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Holothuria atra

10- 250

3 500 - 4 500



Holothuria cinerascens

10- 250

2 000 - 4 000



Holothuria edulis

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Holothuria excellens

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Holothuria impatiens

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Holothuria insolita

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Holothuria leucospilota

50- 250

1 500 - 3 500



Holothuria maculosa


1 500 - 3 000


12 000-15 000*

Holothuria rigida

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



Pearsonothuria graeffei

50- 250

1 500 - 3 000



* After two hours of drying.

Sources: Fishermen; Collectors: Mme Christine (Toliara), Alibay Lakoubay (Toliara), Jean Cris (Ankilibe), Gervais (Ankilibe), Andrianjatovo (Antananarivo).

The price varies depending of the species, the size, the collector and the quality of the product (high, medium and low). In 2001-2002, some species became scarce in Toliara and had no fixed price or were not commercialised at all. It is not easy to obtain information on the price from the operator. Actually, operators buy a parially dried product (after two hours of drying).

Production statistics

Production in Ankilibe village - In 1996, Stichopus horrens represented 39 % of the total harvested sea cucumbers (Mara et al., 1997). Presently, Holothuria scabra forms the major part of the harvested species.

Monthly variation of the production in 2001 (Figure 4) indicates a small decrease during the cold season (May to July). Most of the catches are represented by small specimens of Holothuria scabra. The monthly total number of sandfish harvested varies from 21 375 to 43 105 sea cucumbers.

Figure 4. Monthly variation of the total number of H. scabra (H. s.) and H. s. versicolor (H. sv) harvested in Ankilibe village from October 2000 to September 2001. Size: T3: Small, T2: medium, T1: large, Hol No: Total number ofholothurians harvested.

Production in Toliara Province - Production statistics were obtained from a survey made in 1996 in thirteen different villages. The results are presented in Table 4. The productions varied from 289 031 kg to 572 kg of fresh sea cucumbers and decreased from the northeast (Morombe) to the southeast (Androka) villages. The 1996 production in Ankilibe was 23 700 kg for all harvested species. In 2001, the Ankilibe production was estimated to be 117 465 kg for two sub-species only, Holothuria scabra and Holothuria scabra var. versicolor (see Figure 4 and Table 4).

The production in the Toliara Province is presented in Table 5. It indicates that, from 1987 to 1990, most of the production was exported directly from Toliara. Since 1991, the products transit through Antananarivo before being exported. From 1987 to 1991, the production in Toliara was stable (between 45 to 73.6 tonnes), then it increased abruptly to 245 and 230 tonnes in 1992 and 1993, respectively. The production then decreased to about 75 tonnes. The increased production in 2002 could be related to artisanal fishery or fishing performed outside Malagasy waters. Indeed, some Malagasy fishing ships were reported illegally fishing holothuroids (L'Express de Madagascar, N° 2379).

Table 4. Estimation of the production in different villages of the Toliara Province in 1996.

Villages

Estimation of the sea cucumber harvested in 1996 (kg)

Morombe

289 031

Andavadoake

198 690

Salary Nord

8 809

Andrevo

31 999

Ifaty

52 672

Besakoa

13 563

Ankiembe

6 222

Ankilibe (1996)

23 700

Ankilibe (2001)*

117 465*

Anakao

23 595

Beheloka

572

Itampolo

3 611

Androka

2 532

TOTAL

660 134

*: For Holothuria scabra and Holothuria scabra var. versicolor.

Table 5. Production of trepang in the Toliara Province (metric tonnes).

Year

Domestic market
(tonnes)

Exports
(tonnes)

Total
(tonnes)

1987

6.1

45.2

51.4

1988

2.0

43.0

45.0

1989

23.7

45.9

69.6

1990

2.2

71.3

73.6

1991

61.0

7.5

68.5

1992

142.9

102.2

245.1

1993

140.6

89.6

230.2

1994

40.2

77.0

117.2

1995

4.5

68.4

73.0

1996

53.1

23.2

30.2

1997

43.9

24.3

68.2

1998

40.9

11.0

52.0

1999

35.3

17.7

37.0

2000

74.2

0.0

74.2

2001

98.2

1.2

99.4

2002

53.3

73.1

126.4

Source: SPRH = Provincial Service of Marines Resources of Toliara.

Production in the different provinces - The production in the different Malagasy provinces is presented in Table 6. The exploitation is not developed on the east coast region (Tamatave and Fianarantsoa Provinces) and no data is recorded. Toliara and Mahajanga Provinces are the main producers of trepang. Most of Diego-Suarez products are sent to either Mahajanga or Antananarivo.

Table 6. Production oftrepang in different provinces and destination (kg).

Province

 

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Destination

Toliara

Export

-

-

-

28 250

79 770

11 000

7 700

-

3 936

239 666

England, Italy, Japan,
Singapore, Hong-Kong,
Canada, Reunion

Local
market

-

-

-

24 230

143 866

36 678

17 489

231 562

221 932

201 692

Tamatave, Tananarive

Mahajanga

Export

729

-

17 180

22 025

17 360

10 720

64 374

94 043

83 592

-

Egypt, Japan, Chine,
Reunion, Hong-Kong,
Thailand, Malaysia

Local
market

15 643

-

43 954

46 506

269 835

15 460

18 100

12 610

23 092

11 322

Tananarive

Diego-Suarez

Export

9

-

-

-

-

-

17 794

71 516

2 479

-

Singapore, Taiwan,
Reunion, Hong-Kong,
Dubai, Malaysia

Local
market

18 015

-

-

-

192 338

115 732

135 711

201 426

62 756

-

Majunga, Tananarive

Source: Report ofMPRH (Fisheries and Marines Resources Office).

Table 7. Exports oftrepang and All Marine Resources (AMR) in Madagascar from 1990 to 2002.

Year

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Quantity trepang (tonnes)

202

545

423

357

539

317

279

162

326

327

390

355

987

Value Trepang














(FMG '000 000)






5 335

3 042

2 292

6 839

9 900

13 532

9 818

19 592

Value All Marine Resources














(FMG '000 000)





393 617

393 617

402 350

393 324

675 217

712 611

850 163

1 060 998

1 090 743

% Value Trepang/AMR






1.4

0.8

0.6

1.0

1.4

1.6

0.9

1.8

Source: Report ofMPRH (Fisheries and Marines Resources Office)

Exchange rate:

-1996: 1US$= 5 160Fmg;

-1998: 1US$= 5 600Fmg;

-2000: 1US$= 6 767Fmg;

August 2003: 1US$= 6 210Fmg


-1997: 1US$= 5 400Fmg;

-1999: 1US$= 6 600Fmg;

-2001: 1US$= 6 733Fmg;


Madagascar production and exports

Table 8 indicates that Madagascar production is estimated at 1 800 tonnes from 1994 to 1997. Then, it decreased to 500 tonnes in 1998 to 1999. From 2000, the production is estimated at around 800 tonnes. These values indicate that the mean annual production is about 1 000 tonnes for Madagascar.

Table 8. Evolution of the production in Madagascar from 1994 to 2002 (metric tonnes).

Year

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Production (t)

1800

1800

1800

1800

482

512

838

851

708

Source: Activity report ofDepartment of Fishery and COS (Origin and Health Control).

The 1987 to 2002 exports of trepang from Madagascar are presented in Table 9. Data recorded from various services are different. The exports varied from 60.6 tonnes in 1987 to 986.7 tonnes in 2002. Most of the products came from the Province of Toliara until 1993 (more than 50 %) and then its share decreased to about 20 %. Figure 5 indicates the evolution of the Toliara production and Madagascar exports.

Table 9. Exports of trepang from Madagascar and production in Toliara from 1987 to 2002(metric tonnes).

Year

Production in Toliara
(tonnes)

Exports from Madagascar
(tonnes)

Percent of production

1987

51.4

60.6

84.80

1988

45

119.4

37.73

1989

69.6

113.8

61.17

1990

73.6

202.6

36.33

1991

68.5

545.3

12.56

1992

245.1

423.2

57.91

1993

230.2

356.6

64.55

1994

117.2

539

21.74

1995

73

317.2

23.02

1996

(30.15)1; 66

307.4; (340.5)3

8.85

1997

(68.18)1

(150.9)1,2; (331)2; (161.5)3

20.59

1998

(51.917)1

322.5, (6.5)2

16.09

1999

(37.01)1

326.6

11.33

2000

(74.2)1

389.8

19.03

2001

(99.4)1

355.209

27.96

2002

(126.37)1

986.9

12.80

Sources: - INSRE = National Institute of Statistic and Economic Research of Antananarivo (Customs Service); Infopêche n°8; March 1995.

1: Report SIR-PRH/MPRH (Inter-Regional Service of fishery).

2: Veterinary Service (COS).

3: Statistics Services in Fishing and Marine Resource Office.

Figure 5. Evolution of the production (tonnes) in Toliara and the exports (tonnes) in Madagascar. Source: Report of SPRH (Toliara) andMPRH.

Management of the resources

In Madagascar, resource management problems are related to either overfishing, legislation or administration.

Problems and their consequences in Madagascar

(1) Fishing by walking appears to be declining (production statistics from Toliara indicate a decrease in the production). Fishermen often turn corals heads upside down and break them to look for sea cucumbers. This has negative effects on the resource in destroying its natural habit and damaging the environment.

(2) Fishing by SCUBA diving (which is illegal) has developed rapidly since 1990. Such practice renders the resources increasingly scarce. Presently, divers complain that they have to dive to increasing depths to harvest holothurians. Increase numbers of diving fatalities have increased (Conand et al., 1997).

(3) Currently, some Malagasy ships illegally exploit fishing zones of neighbouring countries (e.g. Seychelles) (L'Express de Mada, N°: 2379, January 2003). They employ hundreds of SCUBA divers to harvest sea cucumbers. Use of this system clearly will lead to a disappearance of the sea cucumber resources in the East Indian Ocean region.

(4) Small individuals are often harvested and this will soon have a negative impact on the resources. At present, the specimen size of various species appears to have decreased especially on the reef flats. The quality of the Malagasy trepang thus decreases which means a decrease of its economic value in the international market.

(5) Intense competition occurs between collectors or operators. To obtain more products, some collectors buy semi-processed and/or bad quality products.

(6) While regulations on sea cucumber exploitation do exist in Madagascar, they are not effectively applied or even not applicable to all species exploited (e.g., the rules governing the minimum size do not consider the various harvested species). Investigations have been done by scientists to determinate the minimum size of each species and a report has been sent to the administration, hoping that the relevant laws will be reconsidered. Also, while the use of diving tanks is forbidden, this system is commonly used in Madagascar. In 2002, over 200 diving tanks were seized for illegal use (Maya Largeat, Afrikeco paper, 05/01/03).

(7) A major problem is that the different administrations ignore the exact quantity of product that the country exports. This is because the importers avoid paying the corresponding taxes and consequently do not declare the quantity of trepang sold.

Management of the fishery

Implementation of sustainable management methods will take place through actions involving the various participants in the fishing sector, from the fisherman to the exporter. Collaboration between different actors in this exploitation is necessary. Contribution of the local authorities to the management of the resource is needed. Education of fishermen should be accompanied by training in processing methods so as to obtain a better price for the products (Conand et al., 1998).

Some actions and programmes were undertaken:

- At the IHSM (Fishery and Marines Sciences Institute) in Toliara, a research project entitled "Study of the sea cucumber fishery and sustainable management" was undertaken in 1995-1996 and funded by the World Bank (BM/ONE/IH-SM). The objective was to present the status of the exploitation in the south-west of Madagascar and the market of sea cucumber and to propose management actions (Mara et al., 1997).

- The national PRE/COI/UE programme, funded by the European Union and co-ordinated in Madagascar by the CN-MAD, has helped the Fishery Department and professionals (e.g., ONET - "National Association of Sea Cucumber Producers"), to implement sustainable management actions on the sea cucumber resources (Conand et al., 1998). In order to reduce over-exploitation of sea cucumbers, they have planned to study the current status of the resource, the production and export statistics, to create a quality management manual for this product and to experiment sea cucumber farming.

- In Toliara, the FAO Fishery Department conducted in 1999 a training programme on techniques of processing for technicians and fishermen.

Sea cucumber cultivation in Madagascar

Conand (1998) indicates that sea cucumbers are overfished all over the world and gave perspectives on mariculture. Sea cucumber hatchery and farming are performed in some countries: China, India, and Japan. Holothuria scabra is the selected tropical species used in aquaculture (James, 1994; James et al., 1995).

The problem of over-exploitation in Madagascar is such that if no action is taken, the region is headed for disaster in both human and ecological terms. On the human level, the increasing scarcity of a high-value export product would lead to increased poverty and instability in the village communities on the west coast of Madagascar (these villages have gradually concentrated their activities around the exploitation of trepang). On the ecological level, sea cucumbers are major components for sustaining coastal ecosystems in tropical areas, as they are macro-detritivorous that consume various organic detritus (e.g. faeces, cadavers, and moult). Mariculture activity can save the situation by "doubling" the process of forming wild populations through the production of commercially exploitable specimens in farms (optimising juvenile growth). Because these juveniles would be produced in hatcheries, this should bring about a decrease in the pressure on wild populations.

A research project on sea cucumber cultivation (hatchery and farming) is now being conducted in Toliara. The project was proposed by the laboratories of Marine Biology of the ULB (Free University of Brussels) and UMH (University of Mons-Hainaut), which are specialised in echinoderm studies (Jangoux et al., 2002). The ongoing work is funded under the University Cooperation for Development (Coopération Universitaire pour le Développement - CUD) from Belgium and three associate partners (ULB, UMH and the IH.SM of the Toliara University) together with the technical assistance of the University of La Réunion (France). The project started in spring 1999 and is programmed to run to 2007.

Objectives

The general objective of the research project is to build a holothurian hatchery and farm in the region of Toliara, and to train Malagasy students to the aquaculture techniques related to holothurian growth. Its purpose was to have, after a 4-year period, the capacity to produce holothurians of marketable size from artificially fertilised eggs. The selected species is Holothuria scabra, a species fished all along the west coast of Madagascar. The objectives of the project cover various fields:

- Economically, the existence of an efficient hatchery and farm clearly will increase the interest of private organisations (they already propose to participate financially). The involvement of private organisations is necessary to make the link between the trepang production and trepang exportation to target countries.

- Ecologically, the capacity to produce juveniles, and to grow them, could, in the mid-term, diminish the anthropic pressure on the natural populations of the cultivated species. In the long-term, the project in Toliara should ensure that scientific training in sea cucumber resource control and production is provided to specialised staff members. Also, practical training of in situ methods for growing species of commercial interest will be given to those village communities that depend on sea cucumbers.

Once a simple and easy standard rearing method can be applied, it will be easily reproduced in various coastal sites (aquaculture farms) using specimens supplied by the hatchery. This would maintain a minimum level of pressure on wild populations (whose ecological importance is well known). After the natural populations have recovered, rearing techniques could be transferred to juveniles collected directly on site to ensure stock management.

Hatchery

The project's two phases (hatchery and farm) are guided by over 30 years of echinoderm research experience of the marine biology team from Brussels and Mons (Belgium) and the University of La Réunion (France). They produced a wide range of works on larva rearing and biology, and on the life cycles, reproductive cycles and feeding habits of adult echinoderms, particularly sea cucumbers.

The hatchery "Aqua-Lab" was set up at the site of the University of Tulear's Fisheries and Marine Sciences Laboratory. It has been active since April 2000. Its main section consists of a 120 m2 air-conditioned building, with four separate rooms for growing seaweed, rearing larvae and growing juveniles, broodstock maintenance, and for laboratory analysis. Two additional rooms are used for computer processing and for maintaining aquarium equipment. The project aims at building up and then ensuring the scientific management of a hatchery designed for the mass production of Holothuria scabra juveniles using wild spawners. Juvenile production is presently mastered and the project is currently working on rearing the juveniles to commercial size.

Farm

Additional funding has been given by the Belgian Cooperation to set up a pilot farm to grow sea cucumber. It will be located about 20 km south of the hatchery in an area allocated to the University of Toliara by the Madagascar Department of Fisheries. The site, which is lined by mangroves, corresponds to the ecological requirements of the investigated species (H. scabra).

Acquiring experimentation

Broodstock were collected in the field and retained in an aquarium. They are then induced to spawn by thermal shock. More than 20 spawnings have carried out by the Aqua-lab with the first fertilisation done in March 2000. It has led to the production of a limited number of sea cucumbers that are now 3 years old. The larvae are fed planktonic algae imported from Europe (a species of Phaeodactylum) and cultivated in the hatchery. Juveniles are fed finely chopped macroalgae (Sargassum densifolium) originating from the reef flat. The presence of mature broodstock all along the reproductive cycle ofH. scabra in this region (Rasolofonirina, unpubl.), indicates that artificial fertilisation is possible throughout the year. Larvae development, metamorphosis and settlement of the species are now under control.

Conclusion

Until the beginning of 1990s, the production in Madagascar was more or less stable at 100 tonnes annually. Since this period, the production has increased and fluctuated. In 1991 and 1993, the production increased to 500 tonnes. Then, the production decreased. This decrease corresponds probably to the decrease of production from traditional fisheries. In 2001-2002, there were again important increases in the production (less than 1 000 tonnes) that corresponds to the development of artisanal and semi-industrial fisheries.

Species of high commercial value are in demand but currently species of low commercial value are also highly prized. Fortunately, they are not yet affected by the artisanal or semi-industrial fishery.

The mean annual production of sea cucumber in Madagascar is officially estimated at 1 000 tonnes. Official export in 2002 was near this number (987 tonnes). In 1993, official export volumes were 357 tonnes, however Hong Kong SAR (China) and Singapore reported imports of 712 tonnes from Madagascar. This number and all exports to other countries (England, Italy, Japan, Canada, Reunion, Malaysia and Egypt) in 1993 are probably estimated at 1 000 tonnes. The export statistics recorded from various services were different. The official data for exports appears to be underestimated.

The sea cucumber fishery plays an important role in the economy of the coastal villages and the country. In the south west of Madagascar, coastal villages live generally on fisheries and most or all of them exploit sea cucumber. Exports of sea cucumber have officially brought Fmg 19.6 million (US$3.1 million) to the country in 2002 (see Table 9). It represents about 2 % of the total export value of all marine resources.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank WIOMSA (Western Indian Ocean Marines Sciences Association) for the travel grant which allowed Mr R Rasolofonirina to attend the FAO ASCAM workshop in China. The authors wish to thank Dr I. Eeckhaut (Université de Mons-Hainaut) and Prof C. Conand (University of La Réunion) for their valuable and stimulating comments and suggestions on this manuscript.

The authors are also grateful to the staff of the Aqua-Lab and the "Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines" for their help and provision of facilities throughout the project.

The hatchery and farming project are funded by University Cooperation for Development of Belgium.

References

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[28] Université de Toliara, Toliara, Madagascar
[29] Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgique
[30] Université de Toliara, Toliara, Madagascar
[31] Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgique
[32] Université de Mons-Hainaut, Mons, Belgium

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