The sea cucumber fishery developed in 1990, and by 1996 production was declining. The 10-year closure allowed recovery of the high value, slow growing species such as the white and the black teatfishes and the golden sandfish. Reassessment of the resource in 2004 through Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)-Tonga Department of Fisheries joint surveys with European Union funding under the PROCFish (Pacific Regional Oceanic and Coastal Fisheries Development Programme) project indicated recovery for many of the commercial species. The Tonga national Sea Cucumber Fishery Management Plan was developed in 2007 to provide policy guidance for sustainable harvest in the open seasons.

 

Record production of 370 tonnes and 250 tonnes was achieved in the two most recent seasons, which was beyond the annual quota allocation proposed in the plan. The Tonga national Sea Cucumber Fishery Management Plan proposed a total annual quota of 200 tonnes divided between the three island groups, a six-month fishing season and a limit of nine processing and export licenses. However, high demand for the resource led to an increase in licences and extended open seasons, resulting in the record production.

 

The Tonga Department of Fisheries is concerned that this enormous production may have caused the resource to become much more depleted than before the moratorium was enforced. SPC assistance was requested to help the local Fisheries Officers reassess the resource and to train local officers to conduct these surveys to facilitate fishery management.

 

Kalo Pakoa, SPC Fisheries Scientist (Invertebrates), was in the Vava’u Group, Tonga from 6 to 19 November 2010 to assist with the surveys of sea cucumber resources there. Vava’u was the second most important producer of sea cucumbers in the 2010 season, with 80 tonnes of dried products. Low- to medium-value species made up a large proportion of the production. Mr Pakoa conducted the invertebrate resource survey training for the local team of six officers from the Department of Fisheries and the Environment Department. After the training the local team went on to complete the surveys in Vava’u. They will continue with assessments in the Ha’apai Group and Tongatapu in the next two to three months.

 

SPC technical assistance has been provided under the European Union-funded SciCOFish (Scientific Support for the Management of Coastal and Oceanic Fisheries in the Pacific Islands Region) project. SPC will continue the training process in Noumea through attachments to complete data processing and reporting. Preliminary results of the sea cucumber surveys in Vava’u indicated recent harvests have impacted the resource there. However, national status will be revealed after other surveys are completed. The Tonga Department of Fisheries will be able to use the results to take necessary measures to effectively enforce the national sea cucumber fishery management plan and protect the future of the fishery.

 

 

For more information, please contact Kalo Pakoa, SPC Fisheries Scientist

 

Photo: Senituli Finau (Tonga Environment Department) with white teatfish specimen from a deep dive station, Vava’u, Tonga.

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 May 2011 16:15
 

 


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