SPC CALLS FOR CHANGES TO BECHE-DE-MER HARVESTING

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Scuba ban to relieve pressure on sea cucumber populations

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 2, 2012) – The Secretariat of the Pacific Community says a series of new information sheets include a plea for island communities to ban scuba gear when harvesting sea cucumber, also known as beche-de-mer.

The 16 sheets are funded by the European Union and are designed to help community groups and NGOs to better protect and manage their coastal fisheries in the face of climate change and population growth.

A coastal fisheries advisor for the SPC, Ian Bertram says a high demand from Asian markets for sea cucumber is putting pressure on the Pacific Ocean.

"They’re generally slow growing, quite vulnerable because they sit on the seabed. Now some countries fishermen are using scuba, they use scuba gear to harvest these vulnerable animals. So our advice is if they want to protect the species or ensure sustainability to prohibit the use of scuba gear to harvest sea cucumbers."

Ian Bertram says other resources that have been over fished include groupers and cod.

[PIR editor’s note: Recent studies have shown that sea cucumbers perform critical functions in relation to coral reef systems in the Pacific. As the sea cucumbers feed on sand, their bodies process the waste and increase the pH levels of the surrounding water, which stimulate coral growth.]

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