Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 140 (January–April 2013)

Produced by the Information Section, Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems, SPC, B.P. D5, 98848 Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia. Fax: (687) 263818.

Produced with financial assistance from France, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.


Sea cucumbers, or beche-de-mer as we call their dried and marketable form, are today’s special in this issue. Few people know that these strange looking creatures lying lazily in shallow areas of tropical waters are the targets of the second-most valuable capture-based, export fishery in the South Pacific, second only to tuna. Unfortunately, these targets have been hit so hard in recent years that several Pacific Island countries, which are among the main producers, have banned their fishing for up to 10 years, in the hope that stocks will recover.

In the first feature article, Carleton and co-authors explain why “the key priority [for sea cucumber management] is to break or moderate the boom-and-bust cycle typical of this industry.” They also demonstrate how using more precautionary production levels (which would allow the production of a higher-value species mix and larger sea cucumbers) and better processing techniques would provide far greater economic returns (almost the double of what the fishery actually does), and would eliminate the need for moratoria. In other words, year after year, national economies, particularly cash-starved rural coastal communities, would benefit from increased revenues.

In the second feature article, Léopold and co-authors confirm Carleton’s conclusions. They describe how, in New Caledonia, a sandfish sea cucumber fishery is co-monitored and co-managed, using an original total allowable catch (TAC) system, by a coastal community and local authorities, under the scientific guidance of the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD). Between 2008 and 2012, the sandfish biomass in the study area nearly tripled, while the average income per fisher nearly doubled, even though the number of fishers increased during the period... a success story, for sure!

Transposing the TAC management system used at the New Caledonia site to another social context and a wider geographic scale will certainly be a challenge. But, among the many lessons learned while reading these two articles, I will certainly remember one: limiting captures can provide far greater economic returns.

Aymeric Desurmont
Fisheries Information Specialist




Fishing for milkfish fry using a bulldozer net, Arnavon Islands, Solomon Islands (image: Tim Pickering).

In this issue


  • SPC participates in purse-seine bycatch mitigation cruise (pdf: )

  • My career in fisheries observing: A story for aspiring observers (pdf: )

  • A new approach to monitoring FAD programmes (pdf: )

  • Survey for milkfish fry collection  in the Arnavon Islands, Solomon Islands (pdf: )

  • Practical training on seaweed culture in Indonesia (pdf: )

  • The latest information on fisheries, aquaculture
    and climate change in the Pacific (pdf: )


  • “Fish and People”: An innovative fisheries science
    learning tool for the Pacific (pdf: )

  • Sea cucumber identification cards help sustainable reef management in Fiji (pdf: )

  • Community-based resource management pre-awareness training for communities in the Solomon Islands (pdf: )

  • The Nago Island Marine Research Facility in Papua New Guinea is up and running (pdf: )

  • New policy brief on mangroves (pdf: )


  • Effective management of sea cucumber fisheries and
    the beche-de-mer trade in Melanesia
    by C. Carleton et al. (pdf: )

  • Towards a new management strategy for Pacific Island
    sea cucumber fisheries
    by M. Léopold et al. (pdf: )

Download the complete publication:

Fisheries Newsletter #140 (pdf: )


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