New hatchery for sea cucumber at SEAFDEC

TIGBAUAN, ILOILO – At the price of US$180 to 250 per kilogram of dried sea cucumber in the United States, sea cucumber are good bets for fish farmers wanting to find the new “gold” in aquaculture.

This has driven SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, the research center based in Iloilo, to develop the hatchery, nursery and grow-out technologies of the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra so that overexploitation of the wild fisheries on which the sea cucumber trade depends will cease or be minimized. Aquaculture can take the pressure off wild stock, enabling it to recover and allowing sustainable management plans to be put in place by local government units and people’s organizations in sea cucumber-rich areas.

Just recently, SEAFDEC built and inaugurated on April 28, 2010 a new sea cucumber hatchery in its main station in Tigbauan, Iloilo. The hatchery can produce as many as 0.2 to 0.5 million sea cucumber juveniles in a 45-day cycle from its ten 3-ton larval rearing tanks and four 8-ton nursery tanks. SEAFDEC has about 100 sea cucumber broodstock at present.

Attending the new hatchery inauguration are the partner-institutions of SEAFDEC in developing science-based sea cucumber technologies, such as the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 3 (RIA-3) of Vietnam, the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) through the Malaysia-based WorldFish Center (WFC), Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), the Government of Japan Trust Fund (GOJ-TF) and the University of the Philippines Visayas. RIA-3 helped design the SEAFDEC sea cucumber hatchery while ACIAR/WFC and JIRCAS, along with the GOJ-TF, are funding studies on sea cucumber. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has likewise been instrumental in technology development.

Dr. Joebert Toledo, the Chief of SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, noted that, next to Indonesia, the Philippines is the second largest exporter of dried sea cucumber in the world. In year 2006, the country’s export of sea cucumber totaled 3,532 metric tons valued at US$4.6 million. Sea cucumber, also known as sandfish or beche-de-mer, live on the seabed, look like slugs, are considered delicacies (i.e., aphrodisiacs), and are common ingredients in Chinese medicine.

Dr. Toledo further noted that profit-making for fisherfolk and aquaculturists is not the sole motivation in putting up the hatchery. Sea cucumber are also potential bioremediators in multi-trophic or polyculture systems as they apparently can subsist on or take in uneaten feeds and feces coming from cultured fish. At SEAFDEC, this concept is being tested in black tiger shrimp ponds, and in milkfish and abalone culture. In the latter, sea cucumber are placed under the sea cages to deal with the waste. This is in line with the concept and enforcement by SEAFDEC and the Philippine government, through DA-BFAR, of good management practices in aquaculture for environment protection.

Dr. Toledo also appealed to the new government administration to put more funds in aquaculture research and development because aquaculture is still the best strategy to put food on the tables of poor families in rural areas and to manage local aquatic resources sustainably. Coastal communities and local governments for instance can communally-manage sea ranching and stock release programs for such a valuable commodity as sea cucumber.

SEAFDEC or the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center is a regional treaty organization whose membership extends to the ten ASEAN countries and Japan. It is mandated to promote fisheries development in Southeast Asia. For more information, visit www.seafdec.org.ph/

Ceremonially opening the new SEAFDEC sea cucumber hatchery are (from left to right): SEAFDEC Deputy Chief Dr. Teruo Azuma, JIRCAS visiting scientist Dr. Satoshi Watanabe, SEAFDEC Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo, Dr. David Mills of  WorldFish Center, and Mr. Nguyen Dinh Quang Duy of Vietnam’s Research Institute of Aquaculture No. 3

The collaborating partners with SEAFDEC staff during the hatchery inauguration on April 28, 2010

Indoor larval rearing tanks

Algae is “painted” onto settlement plates for sea cucumber

Sandfish, also known as sea cucumber

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