The release of 8,000 juvenile trepang (sea cucumbers) into the Arafura Sea off South Goulburn Island in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia may well be a first step in creating a sustainable annual harvest for the indigenous community of Warruwi.
Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation spokesperson Wayne Tupper told Hatchery International that the group has been working with the fisheries department and university researchers in the area, growing thousands of sea cucumbers for release into the ocean, with the declared objective of eventually creating a much-increased commercial harvest program and fishery.
In China and parts of southeast Asia, sea cukes are considered a delicacy and are valued for their medicinal properties. In China they are also viewed as an aphrodisiac.
Tupper explained that the crew releasing the babies has been aided in its work by the NT fisheries department and by the Darwin Aquaculture Centre (DAC). Last year DAC introduced a chute to deliver the young sea cucumbers as close as possible to the sea floor.
The young cucumbers are put out at a size where it would take them around 18 to 24 months to reach commercial size – if they survive.
Some are taken out into deeper waters by the dynamic currents in the vicinity and many are get eaten by crabs and possibly octopi.
“Losses are just part of the game,” Tupper said.
He acknowledged that there is still work to be done establishing protocols for broodstock reproducing in captivity, developing the young trepang in on-shore facilities at the community, and taking them to a single chosen area of the island for plantout.
“All the broodstock are collected from the areas where the juveniles are released,” he said. “The site where we’re doing the research is about 15 hectares.”
— Quentin Dodd
Photo courtesy WCS