Managing sea cucumber fisheries  with and ecosystem approach


Managing sea cucumber fisheries
with an ecosystem approach


Steven W. Purcell
FAO Consultant, National Marine Science Centre
Southern Cross University
Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia

Edited and compiled by

Alessandro Lovatelli
Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture)
Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Marcelo Vasconcellos
FAO Consultant, Institute of Oceanography
Federal University of Rio Grande
Rio Grande, RS, Brazil


Yimin Ye
Senior Fishery Resources Officer, Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Rome, 2010

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ISBN 978-92-5-106489-4

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© FAO 2010

Purcell, S.W.
Managing sea cucumber fisheries with an ecosystem approach.
Edited/compiled by Lovatelli, A.; M. Vasconcellos and Y. Yimin
FAO Fisheries and AquacultureTechnical Paper; 520. Rome, FAO. 2010. 157p


Sea cucumbers are important resources for coastal livelihoods and ecosystems. At least 60 species are fished from more than 40 countries and most of the harvests are processed then exported to Asian markets. Sea cucumbers generally appear to have slow rates of population turnover and are easily harvested in shallow waters in the tropics. With retail prices of up to USD300–500 per kg (dried), exploitation has often been indiscriminant and excessive. Overfishing in recent years has led to local extinction of high-value species in some localities and prompted closures of many national fisheries to allow stocks to recover and to allow more sustainable management plans to be established. Apart from a few developed countries, only a small number of sea cucumber fisheries are currently being managed sustainably.

Sea cucumber fisheries differ greatly in the scale of the fishing activities, status of stocks and the capacity of the management agency. Consequently, some management measures will be appropriate in some fishery scenarios but not others.

This document presents a logical framework to assist fishery managers in choosing an appropriate suite of regulatory measures and management actions and elaborates on the uses, limitations and ways to implement them. This document contains five main sections. The first provides an overview of the biology and ecology of sea cucumbers, the international market for beche-demer market, types of sea cucumber fisheries and their global status (i.e. population abundance). The second section summarizes fisheries management principles and approaches, with an emphasis on the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). The third section provides the “roadmap”, by way of instructions, flow diagrams and tables, to lead fishery managers along the path of choosing management measures appropriate to their fishery. The fourth and fifth sections discuss the application of each regulatory measure and management action – with Examples and lessons learned boxes to illustrate management problems and potential solutions from various fisheries.

Improved management of sea cucumber fisheries is an imperative. It will be best achieved by applying an EAF, in which multiple regulatory measures and management actions are applied in full consideration of the sea cucumber stocks, the ecosystems in which they live and the socio-economic systems that drive exploitation. The commitment of governments, fishery managers and scientists to develop, apply and strictly enforce EAF will be crucial to sustaining sea cucumber populations for current and future generations.


Preparation of this document (Download pdf 406 Kb)
Abbreviations and acronyms
Executive summary

1. Foreword (Download pdf 754Kb)
2. Sea cucumber fisheries

3.  Fisheries management principles and approaches (Download pdf 356 Kb)

     3.1 The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
     3.2 The Precautionary Approach
     3.3 The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries
     3.4 Management objectives, indicators and reference points
     3.5 The management process
     3.6 A decision-making process for chosing the right tools

4.  Defining regulatory measures and actions – A roadmap (Download pdf 152 Kb)

5.  Regulatory measures (Download pdf 434 Kb) -  (Download pdf 446 Kb) -  (Download pdf 1,215 Kb) -  (Download pdf 324 Kb)

     5.1 Size limits
     5.2 Gear limitation and development
     5.3 Effort and capacity control
     5.4 Catch quotas
     5.5 Market chain licensing and reporting
     5.6 Temporal closures
     5.7 Area-based measures

6.  Implementing management (Download pdf 332 Kb) (Download pdf 565 Kb) (Download pdf 639 Kb) (Download pdf 696 Kb)
     6.1 Information for management
     6.2 Institutional requirements
     6.3 Legal requirements
     6.4 Assign acountability
     6.5 Enforcement
     6.6 Education and communication with stakeholders
     6.7 Improve quality of procesing through training
     6.8 Restocking

7.  Conclusions (Download pdf 385 Kb)
8. References and further reading
9. Glossary

10. Annexes

      Annex 10.1 Main species of sea cucumbers commercially exploited and traded around the world
     Annex 10.2 Examples of issues to take into account when considering regulatory measures and actions for implementing management
     Appendix 1 - Fishery-dependent landing data sheet
     Appendix 2 - Data sheet for recording landings of fishers
     Appendix 3 - A logsheet used in the sea cucumber fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada