While shark’s fin soup has long been a revered delicacy for the Chinese, trade in shark has recently declined, notes a new study from WorldFish scientist Hampus Eriksson and shark trade expert Shelley Clarke from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security. The study also reports that while there is growing conservation momentum for shark, the trade in sea cucumber, another high-value Chinese delicacy, has not diminished. Seven species in this group of animals are now endangered due to overfishing.
Sea cucumber is the second most valuable seafood export from the Pacific Islands after tuna. However, unlike tuna fishing, which requires considerable investment in vessels and gears, sea cucumber harvesting can be done with minimal equipment, such as a bucket. Therefore, sea cucumber harvesting provides an important source of livelihoods for poor and vulnerable communities.
The report’s authors note that current regulatory environments are insufficient to safeguard sea cucumbers and recommend strengthened conservation strategies. Proper governance of fisheries and supply chains will be necessary to make sure that sea cucumbers are harvested sustainably and fishers livelihoods are not negatively impacted.
Stephen J Hall, Director General, WorldFish: “We must achieve a balance between conservation and the livelihoods of those that depend on this valuable resource. Improved trade monitoring systems will greatly assist in guiding appropriate management responses. In parallel we should also put greater effort into understanding the potential of aquaculture to reduce the pressure on wild caught sea cucumber.”
Scientists note that sea cucumber plays a vital role in the recycling of nutrients that can, in turn, feed algae and coral. Some believe that they may also play a role in reducing coral damage due to ocean acidification.
Part of the challenge is better understanding how global supply chains can be governed in ways that support equitable distribution of benefits to fishers and under what management models this can be achieved.
Chinese market responses to overexploitation of sharks and sea cucumbers also discusses how the Chinese seafood market for these products has adapted to compensate for declining wild catch stocks. For sea cucumbers, aquaculture is now a major contributor towards maintaining overall production in the face of overfished wild resources. A Chinese government led campaign against consumption of shark fin soup combined with mounting global concern has reduced trade the report concludes.
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WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. Globally, more than one billion poor people obtain most of their animal protein from fish and 800 million depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. WorldFish is a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.
CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research Centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partners.