University of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Serial exploitation of global sea cucumber fisheries

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 16:49 authored by Anderson, SC, Flemming, JM, Reginald WatsonReginald Watson, Lotze, HK
In recent decades, invertebrate fisheries have expanded in catch and value worldwide. One increasingly harvested group is sea cucumbers (class Holothuroidea), which are highly valued in Asia and sold as trepang or bêche-de-mer. We compiled global landings, economic data, and country-specific assessment and management reports to synthesize global trends in sea cucumber fisheries, evaluate potential drivers, and test for local and global serial exploitation patterns. Although some sea cucumber fisheries have existed for centuries, catch trends of most individual fisheries followed boom-and-bust patterns since the 1950s, declining nearly as quickly as they expanded. New fisheries expanded five to six times faster in 1990 compared to 1960 and at an increasing distance from Asia, encompassing a global fishery by the 1990s. Global sea cucumber production was correlated to the Japanese yen at a leading lag. Regional assessments revealed that population declines from overfishing occurred in 81% of sea cucumber fisheries, average harvested body size declined in 35%, harvesters moved from near- to off-shore regions in 51% and from high- to low-value species in 76%. Thirty-eight per cent of sea cucumber fisheries remained unregulated, and illegal catches were of concern in half. Our results suggest that development patterns of sea cucumber fisheries are largely predictable, often unsustainable and frequently too rapid for effective management responses. We discuss potential ecosystem and human community consequences and urge for better monitoring and reporting of catch and abundance, proper scientific stock assessment and consideration of international trade regulations to ensure long-term and sustainable harvesting of sea cucumbers worldwide. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Publication title

Fish and Fisheries








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna)