The work towards replenishing depleted stocks of wild sea cucumber with captive hatched ones is moving forward at a steady pace; two Philippine hatcheries has now successfully managed to hatch sea cucumbers outside their natural habitat and one batch, comprised of roughly 2,000 juveniles, has been released inside sea pens in the Philippines.

Seacucumber Saving the sea cucumber

The sea cucumbers, a broad range of species belonging to the family Stichopodidae, are currently facing both overharvesting and habitat destruction in the wild, and the two Philipine hatcheries are both part of a research project carried out by the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UPM); a project aiming to mitigate the problem of overharvesting through sea

farming.

The first hatchery is a 6,000-square-meter laboratory located within a Barangay Binugay resort owned by the JV Ayala Group of Companies, while other one is situated inside Alson’s, an intensive tilapia operator.

The Barangay Binugay laboratory does not have any breeding stock; instead it collects the eggs from wild sea cucumbers, place them in a tank and fertilize them using drops of sperm - a method inspired by a Vietnamese sandfish sea cucumber hatchery and grow-out facility in tilapia .

The first Philippine batch of tiny cucumbers, each weighing no more than three grams, has now been released inside sea pens near the Barangay Binugay laboratory. Carefully, each individual cucumber was buried just below the surface of the soft sea bottom inside 78-square-meter Australian-designed sea pens.

With a history dating back to at least the Sultanate days in Mindanao, sea cucumber trading is a time honoured tradition as well as an important source of income for the Philippines. The country is currently the second largest exporter of beche-de-mer (dried sea cucumber) in the world, second only to neighbouring Indonesia, and diminishing cucumber populations are threatening the livelihood of countless families.

Beche-de-mer is currently priced at roughly 4,500 Philippine pesos per kilogram (roughly 94 USD/kg), and since large specimens are becoming increasingly rare purchasers are no longer very discerning when it comes to size. Even small cucumbers that should have been left to mature can now be sold to unscrupulous purchasers.

Did you know…..?

… that sea cucumbers are known as the earth-worms of the sea since they recycle detritus and burrow under the sand? These animals carry out an essential ecological task as they continuously shift and mix the sea bead and if they were to disappear it would have serious consequences.

… that at depths below 8.8 km (5.5 miles), sea cucumbers comprise 90% of the total mass of the macro fauna?

… that sea cucumbers aren’t appreciated as food only; some people believe them to be effective against arthritis and high blood pressure?

…that sea cucumbers have been observed engaging in mass-spawnings triggered by the moon? One species is for instance known to spawn three nights after the full moon, while two other species have been seen spawning three nights after the first quarter moon.

… that sea cucumbers have been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and that some people still use them for this purpose today?

…that large sea cucumbers often are harvested by so called hookah diving, where divers breathe through long tubes connected to an oxygen compressor aboard a boat instead of using normal scuba tanks.