Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Thailand Sea cucumber fisheries
Fishery  Fact Sheet
Status and trends of sea cucumbers fisheries in SouthEast Asia 2006
Thailand Sea cucumber fisheries
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned bySoutheast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) – more>>

Overview: Sea cucumbers are benthic invertebrates generally found in coastal water with diverse species. They play the roles in ecosystem as decomposers and nutrient releasers in food chain. For human being, sea cucumbers have their long history as the traditional medical components and food. Thus, they are commercially important in many countries, especially in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific regions, for high-protein food, medical products, and supplementary food, resulted in a trend towards overfishing on the commercial species.
In Thailand, a number of sea cucumber species have long been harvested both from the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea for local consumption, restaurant, and international trade. To serve the sufficient fact and scientific information for internationally ecological concern, the taxonomic classification, biology, production, utilization, and trade of sea cucumbers in Thailand were gathered in this fact sheet. This information collection would be useful for the management of sea cucumbers in this area.

Location of Thailand Sea cucumber fisheries

Geographic reference:  Thailand
Spatial Scale: National
Reference year: 2006
Approach: Fishery Resource

Harvested Resource
Fishery Area: Thailand

Captured Species: Sandfish; Lollyfish; Holothuria argus …  

Fishing Activity
Type of production system: Artisanal   

Seacucumbers are exploited for long times in Thailandalong the coastal area and islands. The commonfishing methods are hand picking during low tide orsnorkeling at deeper water. Processing is confinedin local places with traditional techniques usuallygutted, cleaned, boiled, and dried or smoked. Forrestaurant demand, Thailand imports processed seacucumbers from many parts of the world, totally 22countries of which Madagascar was the majority. Atthe same time the sea cucumbers are also exportedfrom the country mainly to Hong Kong followedby the 8 countries in Asia and 3 other countries.Recently, the quantities and values of their importand export were not markedly different. The actualspecies traded are not recorded.Although there have been exploitation and tradeof sea cucumbers in the country for long times,the fisheries is not significantly commercial.
Fishery Area
Climatic zone: Tropical.   Bottom type: Coral reef; Seagrass.   Depth zone: Coastal - Shallow waters, inshore (0 m - 50 m).   Vertical distribution: Demersal/Benthic.  

Geo References

Most of seacucumbers are coastal fauna, many of which preferhiding around coral reef or sea grass bed.
Fishing Technique
Sea cucumbers have been harvested in Thailandby the simple method by hand up to fishing gearoperation as followed:
  • Picking by hand during low tide from intertidalarea and from shallow water.
  • Snorkeling at deeper water up to 5-10 m.
  • Punching by pointed metal spear mounted on along pole. This has been popular amongst seagypsy fishermen targeting high value speciessuch as Thelenota ananus, Actinopyga echinites,and Holothuria nobilis, in deeper water.
  • Two sea cucumber trawlers in Trang Provinceof southern Thailand were recorded. They were8-10 m long with 5-10 hp engines. The trawlwas 2.5 inch mesh-size polyethylene of 5-6 mlength and 3 cm codend mesh-size. Day-timeoperation was done at the coastal area near seagrass bed.
Local fishermen prefer to collect sea cucumberswithin nearby coastal zones during low tide; otherse.g., the sea gypsy in the Andaman Sea, indulgein extensive migrations to offshore islands for1-7 days trip fisheries. During these trips, seacucumbers are gutted and brought back to land forfurther processing. Income from sea cucumberfisheries varies from trip to trip depending on thefishing effort, availability of resources and speciescollected. Some species are collected duringdaytime e.g., Holothuria leucospilota, while otherse.g., Stichopus variegates, are available at night.

Post Harvest
Fish Utilisation

Local usage and processing
Normally sea cucumbers are gutted by cutting thehead and bottom, cleaned with water and dried.However, there are differences in technique fromplace to place.
In southern Thailand, processing of Holothuriascabra involved gutting and boiling the animalsin sea water for 1 hour. The fisherman then buriesthem in the sand overnight, then taking out andstepping on them for 10 to 20 minutes to squeezeout their color. The sea cucumbers are boiled in water again for 1 hour, then brushed to remove thespicules, before they are ready for consumption, ordried for storage.
In Phangnga Province, southern Thailand, the seacucumbers are gutted and cleaned then boiled inseawater with alum (aluminium potassium sulphate)for 2 hours, before they are smoked for 1 day.In Chonburi Province, eastern Thailand, the seacucumbers are gutted and cleaned, boiled in theirown coelomic fluid for at least 2 hours, then smokedfor 10 hours and sun-dried for 2 more days. Thewater left in this process is put in 20-litre containersand sold as the component of traditional medicine.Weight ratio of dry sea cucumber to the fresh onesis varied by species e.g., one hundred kilograms offresh Holothuria leucospilota can be 10 kilogramsof the smoked one.
The quality of dried sea cucumbers produced in someplaces appears to be poor. Processing requires basicequipments and the methods are straightforward,but it needs to be carefully undertaken if goodquality product is desired.
Processed sea cucumbers are used for soup andtraditional salad.


Local fish markets
Cooked, boiled, or dried sea cucumbers are sold atlocal fish markets in the big cities, where restaurantsserve them in Chinese soup or salad. The price ofprocessed sea cucumbers varies by species andmarkets. There are 12 species of sea cucumbersconsumed in Thailand, some of them are exported:
  • Holothuria scabra - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria atra - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria argus - Holothuriidae
  • Bohadschia marmorata - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria spinifera - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria leucospilota - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria nobilis - Holothuriidae
  • Holothuria edulis - Holothuriidae
  • Actinopyga echinites - Holothuriidae
  • Stichopus chloronotus - Stichopodidae
  • Stichopus variegates - Stichopodidae
  • Thelenota ananas - Stichopodidae
The most popular one among Thai is Holothuriascabra (white sea cucumber or pling khao), followedby H. atra (black sea cucumber or pling dam).

From the latest data reported in 2003, Thailandimported sea cucumbers from 22 countries. The major one was Madagascar, followedby Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, and others.
Thailand also exported sea cucumbers to 12countries mostly to Hong Kong.Apart from the majority in Asian countries, U.S.A., Niger, and Australia were included in the exportedcountries of Thailand.
From overall data, the amounts andvalues of imported and exported sea cucumbers inThailand are nearly the same. They were tradedmostly in processed form. Quantity and value oftraded sea cucumbers increased remarkably since1999.
In addition, there has been some volume of trade atborders of the country not existing in data base ofthe concerned organization.
Status of Management
Sea cucumber fisheries, marketing and trade are notrecorded in national fisheries statistics; their stockassessment and recruitment are not yet studied aswell. Nevertheless, due to their common habitatslocating in and around coral reefs, reef flats and seagrass bed, strong harvesting of the animals wouldcertainly disturb or resulted in destruction of thesesignificantly-important coastal-ecosystems. Thus,intensive monitoring on sea cucumber exploitationand trade should be carried out for conservation andlong term sustainable exploitation purposes.
Source of Information
The bibliographic references and aknowledgments are available in the report included in "Source of Information".
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