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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>>

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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 …  
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Fishing Activity
Type of production system: Artisanal   

History
Sea cucumbers are exploited for long times in Thailand along the coastal area and islands. The common fishing methods are hand picking during low tide or snorkeling at deeper water. Processing is confined in local places with traditional techniques usually gutted, cleaned, boiled, and dried or smoked. For restaurant demand, Thailand imports processed sea cucumbers from many parts of the world, totally 22 countries of which Madagascar was the majority. At the same time the sea cucumbers are also exported from the country mainly to Hong Kong followed by the 8 countries in Asia and 3 other countries. Recently, the quantities and values of their import and export were not markedly different. The actual species traded are not recorded. Although there have been exploitation and trade of 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 sea cucumbers are coastal fauna, many of which prefer hiding around coral reef or sea grass bed.
Fishing Technique
Sea cucumbers have been harvested in Thailand by the simple method by hand up to fishing gear operation as followed:
  • Picking by hand during low tide from intertidal area and from shallow water.
  • Snorkeling at deeper water up to 5-10 m.
  • Punching by pointed metal spear mounted on a long pole. This has been popular amongst sea gypsy fishermen targeting high value species such as Thelenota ananus, Actinopyga echinites, and Holothuria nobilis, in deeper water.
  • Two sea cucumber trawlers in Trang Province of southern Thailand were recorded. They were 8-10 m long with 5-10 hp engines. The trawl was 2.5 inch mesh-size polyethylene of 5-6 m length and 3 cm codend mesh-size. Day-time operation was done at the coastal area near sea grass bed.
Local fishermen prefer to collect sea cucumbers within nearby coastal zones during low tide; others e.g., the sea gypsy in the Andaman Sea, indulge in extensive migrations to offshore islands for 1-7 days trip fisheries. During these trips, sea cucumbers are gutted and brought back to land for further processing. Income from sea cucumber fisheries varies from trip to trip depending on the fishing effort, availability of resources and species collected. Some species are collected during daytime e.g., Holothuria leucospilota, while others e.g., Stichopus variegates, are available at night.

Post Harvest
 
Fish Utilisation

Local usage and processing
Normally sea cucumbers are gutted by cutting the head and bottom, cleaned with water and dried. However, there are differences in technique from place to place.
In southern Thailand, processing of Holothuria scabra involved gutting and boiling the animals in sea water for 1 hour. The fisherman then buries them in the sand overnight, then taking out and stepping on them for 10 to 20 minutes to squeeze out their color. The sea cucumbers are boiled in water again for 1 hour, then brushed to remove the spicules, before they are ready for consumption, or dried for storage.
In Phangnga Province, southern Thailand, the sea cucumbers are gutted and cleaned then boiled in seawater with alum (aluminium potassium sulphate) for 2 hours, before they are smoked for 1 day. In Chonburi Province, eastern Thailand, the sea cucumbers are gutted and cleaned, boiled in their own coelomic fluid for at least 2 hours, then smoked for 10 hours and sun-dried for 2 more days. The water left in this process is put in 20-litre containers and sold as the component of traditional medicine. Weight ratio of dry sea cucumber to the fresh ones is varied by species e.g., one hundred kilograms of fresh Holothuria leucospilota can be 10 kilograms of the smoked one.
The quality of dried sea cucumbers produced in some places appears to be poor. Processing requires basic equipments and the methods are straightforward, but it needs to be carefully undertaken if good quality product is desired.
Processed sea cucumbers are used for soup and traditional salad.

Markets

Local fish markets
Cooked, boiled, or dried sea cucumbers are sold at local fish markets in the big cities, where restaurants serve them in Chinese soup or salad. The price of processed sea cucumbers varies by species and markets. There are 12 species of sea cucumbers consumed 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 Holothuria scabra (white sea cucumber or pling khao), followed by H. atra (black sea cucumber or pling dam).

Trade
From the latest data reported in 2003, Thailand imported sea cucumbers from 22 countries. The major one was Madagascar, followed by Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, and others.
Thailand also exported sea cucumbers to 12 countries mostly to Hong Kong. Apart from the majority in Asian countries, U.S.A., Niger, and Australia were included in the exported countries of Thailand.
From overall data, the amounts and values of imported and exported sea cucumbers in Thailand are nearly the same. They were traded mostly in processed form. Quantity and value of traded sea cucumbers increased remarkably since 1999.
In addition, there has been some volume of trade at borders of the country not existing in data base of the concerned organization.
Management
 
Status of Management
Sea cucumber fisheries, marketing and trade are not recorded in national fisheries statistics; their stock assessment and recruitment are not yet studied as well. Nevertheless, due to their common habitats locating in and around coral reefs, reef flats and sea grass bed, strong harvesting of the animals would certainly disturb or resulted in destruction of these significantly-important coastal-ecosystems. Thus, intensive monitoring on sea cucumber exploitation and trade should be carried out for conservation and long term sustainable exploitation purposes.
Source of Information
 
Bibliography
 
The bibliographic references and aknowledgments are available in the report included in "Source of Information".
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