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(UPMSI). The Philippines is the second-largest
exporter of sea cucumber products but the
resource has been overfished and unmanaged.
Professor Meñez has pioneered community-
based sea ranching as a cultivation strategy
that can help local fishers supplement their
income and help rebuild wild sea cucumber
populations. Sea ranching involves stocking
hatchery-reared juvenile sandfish into wild
marine habitats to grow out.
She leads the ACIAR sandfish research project
in the Philippines that was responsible for
establishing three 5 hectare trial sites at Anda,
Masinloc and Victory. A critical aspect of the
project is liaison between local government
authorities and community partners to establish
exclusive harvesting rights for communities
participating in sea-ranch trials. She also
oversees juvenile production in the hatchery
and monitoring of released juveniles in the field.
ACIAR's sea cucumber sea-ranching project
in the Philippines is part of a broader national Gutting sea cucumbers harvested from a commercial pond prior to drying for export in Van Ninh, Vietnam.
PHOTOS: DAVID MILLS
research program to improve the management
of sea cucumber fisheries and develop a
sustainable industry. The national program
is supported by the Department of Science
and Technology and the Department of
Agriculture's Bureau of Agricultural Research.
Professor Meñez says increasing juvenile
production to supply the sea-ranching project
has been difficult because of limited hatchery
space at the UPMSI laboratory and lack of
access to suitable ponds for juvenile rearing. In
response, she and her team have developed
ocean nursery systems to culture juveniles to a
They have been able to demonstrate that
viable spawning populations can be established
in sea-ranching areas. This technique can also be
used to help rebuild depleted stocks, as larvae
settle in the ranching sites and adjacent areas.
Professor Meñez says poaching from the sea
ranches has been an ongoing issue. Sharing
information, consultation with adjacent villages
and regular guarding of the sea-ranched areas
have helped to reduce poaching in some
villages. Guarding is undertaken 24 hours a
day, seven days a week, although it has been
difficult for some community partners to
maintain the commitment required to do this
for the 12 months or more it takes sandfish to
reach harvestable size.
Natural disturbances, particularly typhoons,
have also reduced harvestable yields at the
trial sites. At the Victory site the sandfish
biomass almost halved following a succession
of typhoons that changed sediment quality
and reduced the area of suitable substrate for
feeding in the seagrass beds.
"We cannot do anything about this but we
can learn much from the results to improve
future efforts," Professor Meñez says. "This might
include better site selection or changes to the
timing of release of juveniles."
She says in addition to supplementary
income from sandfish harvesting, the
participating communities have benefited from
new knowledge and skills, the opportunity to
share what has been learned, and the use of
sea ranching to improve the management of
fisheries for future generations.
"The commitment of our community
participants has varied, but we have a core
group of very active partners. Perception
surveys we conducted after 3 years indicate
that, despite the challenges, the majority are
willing to continue with the sea ranching. They
would like to see it institutionalised by their local
government body, even when the project ends."
Research based in Vietnam is focused on
pond aquaculture, using ponds previously
used for shrimp farming. Dr David Mills of
the WorldFish Center oversees the ACIAR
sea cucumber research. He says the Vietnam
research has simplified hatchery and breeding
techniques, making the breeding system more
easily adopted in developing countries.
This research is ongoing at the National Seed
Production Center of the Research Institute
for Aquaculture No.3 at Van Ninh, in Vietnam's
central coastal region.
" The aim is to ensure all levels of sea cucumber
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