Home' Partners : Partners: Recipes for success – food stories of ACIAR projects Contents ACIAR PROJECT FIS/2010/096
Benefits of improving postharvest processing
of sea cucumbers in the Western Pacific.
Dr Steven Purcell
National Marine Science Centre,
Southern Cross University,
Dr Chris Barlow
(fisheries research program manager), ACIAR,
(STUFFED SEA CUCUMBER)
ABOUT THE DISH
The recipe is a traditional Fijian way of preparing
sea cucumber updated with modern ingredients.
This dish is traditionally prepared for feasts or
family gatherings. The recipe was provided by
Mrs Pauline Fong Toy, Fiji, the mother-in-law of
one of our collaborating scientists from the
While the fished sea cucumber species in the
Pacific are usually dried and exported to China
rather than being consumed locally, in Fiji there is
one species—the sandfish (Holothuria scabra)—
that is traditionally eaten by Fijians. This species
contributes to food security and is protected by Fiji
fisheries legislation, which restricts export volumes.
Sandfish are sold fresh in local markets but the size
of the sea cucumber has been decreasing because
of overfishing due to supply of the Chinese market,
where it is dehydrated and labelled ‘beche-de-mer’.
PROCESSING OF SEA CUCUMBERS
IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC
Sea cucumbers are worth $20 million to $50 million
a year in exports from Pacific island countries.
Wild harvest has provided income to more than
300,000 small-scale fishers in the Western Pacific in
recent years. The main issues facing sea cucumber
fisheries are the postharvest processes used by
fishers and inadequate or ineffective management
frameworks, enforcement and governance. Several
recent initiatives have started to improve fisheries
management but need to progress in tandem
with improved processing methods if fishers are
expected to harvest less yet still earn sufficient
income for their families.
There have been several ACIAR projects in the
region, with FIS/2010/096 focusing on improving
postharvest processing of cucumbers so that
export quotas can be lowered (as exported sea
cucumbers are a higher-value product).
The overall aim of this project is to improve the
incomes of village fishers in Kiribati, Tonga and
Fiji through support to improve the quality of
postharvest processing of sea cucumbers. At
least 3,000 households are expected to benefit
financially from the project as a primary impact.
The outputs could also prove valuable to Torres
Strait Islanders who harvest sea cucumbers
commercially. A greater involvement of women
in the fishery through postharvest processing
The Western Pacific postharvest-processing sea
cucumber project is led by Dr Steven Purcell from
Southern Cross University and is commissioned
through ACIAR’s Fisheries Program.
Proper processing of sea cucumbers can reap a
two to fourfold increase in sale prices from fishers
to buyers, but many fishers did not know how to
process sea cucumbers. Training manuals have
been a fantastic tool for village fishers and more
than 95% of workshop participants in Fiji, Kiribati
and Tonga reported that the workshops provided
new knowledge and had changed their thinking
Many of the fishers interviewed say that they
continue to refer back to the manual. The following
year the project team followed up with the trainees
to understand how the processing methods had
been integrated into their farming practices.
In the village of Vuna on Taveuni Island, Fiji, one
fisher said that he found the workshop most useful
and had never been taught proper processing
methods. The follow-up questionnaire showed
that this farmer had sustained the best-practice
methods he had been taught the previous year
and had even taught his uncle based on the
training provided. n
ISSUE ONE 2017 PARTNERS
A sea cucumber fisher with dried products ready
to sell. Vuna village, Taveuni, Fiji.
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