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Papua New Guinea: a hotspot of sea cucumber fisheries in the Western Central Pacific
Kinch, J.; Purcell, S.; Uthicke, S.; Friedman, K. (2008). Papua New Guinea: a hotspot of sea cucumber fisheries in the Western Central Pacific, in: Toral-Granda, V. et al. (Ed.) Sea Cucumbers, a global review of fisheries and trade. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, 516: pp. 57-77
In: Toral-Granda, V.; Lovatelli, A.; Vasconcellos, M. (Ed.) (2008). Sea Cucumbers, a global review of fisheries and trade. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, 516. FAO: Rome, Italy. ISBN 978-92-5-106079-7. 317 pp., more
In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. FAO/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome. ISSN 2070-7010, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Kinch, J.
  • Purcell, S.
  • Uthicke, S.
  • Friedman, K.

    Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the largest countries in the Western Central Pacific region and is now the third largest producer of bêche-de-mer in the world, supplying around 10 percent of the global market. Species of commercial importance recognized by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) include Actinopyga echinites, A. lecanora, A. mauritiana, A. miliaris, Bohadschia argus, B. similis, B. vitiensis, Holothuria atra, H. coluber, H. edulis, H. fuscogilva, H. fuscopunctata, H. scabra, H. scabra var. versicolor, H. whitmaei, Pearsonothuria graeffei, Stichopus chloronotus, S. herrmanni, S. horrens, Thelenota ananas and T. anax. Other species that are occasionally taken include A. caerulea, H. leucospilota, S. pseudohorrens, S. vastus and T. rubralineata. Sea cucumbers are not a common “traditional” food in PNG, hence almost all are exported. They are mainly harvested by hand by free divers, or with spears and lead bombs in deeper water. Night fishing with torches and underwater breathing devices are used now despite their prohibition. Management of the sea cucumber fishery in PNG was recognized as necessary after catches declined from the fishery’s inception in the nineteenth century. Today, the NFA is responsible for the conservation and management of PNG’s sea cucumber fishery. It has gazetted the National Bêche-de-mer Management Plan in 2001, which aims to maximize the long-term economic benefits from the fishery while ensuring resource and environmental sustainability. Despite the national management plan, PNG still faces difficulties in enforcement and compliance. The two most continual infringements reported to the NFA involve the illegal buying of bêche-de-mer and seizure in urban centres. There are also occasional discrepancies between export figures and the import figures from Asian markets. Factors that contribute to management problems include the remoteness of fishers and the limited human and financial resources of provincial fisheries offices. Moreover, export volumes continue to rise as fishers are collecting large quantities of low-value species. There is growing awareness by fishers that sea cucumbers are no longer abundant. Past stock assessments have been largely independent of each other and used differing methodologies and scales, making it difficult to see changes in abundance over time. Perhaps CITES listing of some sea cucumber species in PNG could help management. However, implementation issues would need to be considered; for example, NFA’s policy objectives, administrative capacity, adequate financing and regulatory ability. CITES listings could contribute to enhanced opportunities for technical assistance from regional agencies and promote increased partnerships with importing countries. It could also provide a mechanism for comprehensive and standardized trade and quota reporting. Arguably, the declines in abundances of H. scabra and H. whitmaei could qualify them for CITES listing. Recent studies among several Provinces revealed a high economic reliance on sea cucumbers fishing; 12-75 percent of surveyed households gained some or most of their income from this fishery. Fishers currently receive around 65 percent of the export price across all species at the point of sale. Undoubtedly, a collapse of the sea cucumber fishery would have dire social and economic consequences for village-based fishers in PNG. Of all of PNG’s existing fisheries, the sea cucumber fishery is one in which good management, appropriate regulation and enforcement could continue to deliver economic benefits, particularly at the rural level.

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