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By Nazario Rodriguez Jr.

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Feb. 23) – The government of Palau wants to transform the country into a major producer in the Pacific sea cucumber industry.

Following a research made by the University of Hawaii-based Pacific Business Center, Palau Minister of Commerce and Trade Otoichi Besebes expressed optimism that Palau would be able to benefit from this industry.

"This is one of the things that...President (Tommy Remengesau) wanted to develop," Besebes said.

He said the government is now getting more information about sea cucumbers from other countries like Australia, the Philippines, China and Japan.

"I want that somebody from the community will venture into it and develop it into an export industry," Besebes said.

The sea cucumber, also known as beche-de-mer or trepang, is known in Asia for its medicinal and culinary uses.

In 1994, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan imported US$60 million worth of sea cucumbers, according to the Pacific Business Center.

It said the international beche-de-mer industry produces approximately 80,000 tons of raw sea cucumbers each year from sources in the South Pacific and Asia.

An extensive sea cucumber fishery off the Queensland coast and the Torres Strait region in Australia has a total allowable catch of 500 tons annually.

The Chinese use sea cucumbers to nourish the blood, "tone" the kidney, treat weakness, impotence, debility, constipation due to intestinal dryness, frequent urination, arthritis pain and osteoarthritis.

Sea cucumbers are also considered as an aphrodisiac and a cure for whooping cough and high blood pressure.

Moreover, they are valued for their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties.

Dried sea cucumber is also a prized delicacy used to flavor soups and stir-fries.

Japan, Korea and Malaysia are some of the countries that make food products from sea cucumbers.

February 23, 2005

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