The first commercial sea cucumber hatchery in the Pacific has been established thanks to two scientists who met at the Australian Maritime College Tasmania.

Aquaculturalists Paul Ryan and Poasi Fale Ngaluafe have established the hatchery in Port Vila, Vanuatu after demand from China. Sea cucumber or Sucuwalu as they are known in Fiji, are highly prized by the Asian market in the dried form beche-de-mer.

“Sea cucumber is a high value fisheries resource in the region because of the high demand in the Asian market especially mainland China.

“The sea cucumbers are collected from the wild and processed into dry products known as beche-de-mer (trepang) then exported to the Asian market.

“As a result of the significant support of the livelihoods of most people within the coastal areas of the Pacific, some of the countries in the region have placed moratoriums and banned for any commercial harvest such as PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Vanuatu until recently, as a way to revive the natural stock.”

Sea cucumber hatcheries are recognised as a significant stock boosting tool, through enhancement programs throughout the pacific on a long term basis. Hopes to expand the community-based project to other pacific islands, Fiji in particular, are next on the duo’s list.

“Working with the communities is the key roles for the success of the sea cucumbers ranching or stock enhancement program as the outcomes of the hatchery production.

“Communities can also undertake training upon how to process good quality products or beche-de-mer in a way that they can earn increased revenue from their resources.”

During the infancy of the Australian aquaculture industry, Mr Ryan said they had long-term goals that aimed to secure the needs of the Pacific during the 1990s.

“The establishment of environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry throughout the Pacific nations has undergone an enormous leap forward,” he said.

Mr Ryan was instrumental in establishing the culture of various species of prawns and shrimp along with mud crabs and milkfish in Vanuatu before establishing Vate Ocean Gardens Ltd, which provides cost-effective product and export farmed tilapia and barramundi fillets to ionic restaurants in Fiji from Vanuatu.

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