Sea cucumbers are often referred to as 'Beche-de-mer' as both the live animal and the processed product. In Papua New Guinea there are 30 different commercially valuable species of beche-de-mer.
The Beche-de-mer fishing industry is very important in Milne Bay. Many fishermen rely on the open season to provide enough income to last the rest of the year.
The industry had been closed for the past 8 years due to over-fishing. It reopened for the first time in April this year.
Prior to the opening of the Beche-de-mer season, Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative conducted aBeche-de-mer stock assessment in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority (NFA).
Over 3 weeks we conducted transects at varying depths across 9 islands within the conflicts atoll.
The results of this stock assessment are not only useful for the NFA, helping to calculate a sustainable Total Allowable Catch (TAC), but will also help us to monitor the impacts this open season has had on the number and diversity of sea cucumbers found at the Conflict Islands.
At last count 305 divers were fishing at the Conflict Islands. On the 26th May NFA called a close to Beche-de-mer diving in Milne Bay as the TAC is about to be reached, with a total of 100.4 Tonnes sold to exporters. Fishermen have until the 9th June to sell all their Beche-de-mer products.
Over fishing and the taking of undersized sea cucumbers is still a threat to the Beche-de-mer industry. Here at the Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative we are working towards making this important industry more sustainable and eco-friendly.