Holothuria Scabra (Sandfish) releasing gametes.

On November 30, 2020, Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) and Ebiil Society announced the first successful breeding of sea cucumber in the lab in Palau. Sea cucumber (Molech), is one of the local seafood species of high cultural and economic value, especially among Palauan fisherwomen. However, the domestic fishing law had banned the harvest and export of sea cucumber due to uncontrolled gleaning activities, which caused wild population decline unseen in decades.

The sea cucumber, also commonly known as sandfish, is recognized globally as a threatened species under The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List). Since April 2019, BMR in partnership with the Ebiil Society, cooperated to do sea cucumber research for aquaculture trials. The Aquaculture Expert at BMR took three weeks to conduct artificial spawning for sea cucumber brood stock. “The success of sea cucumber culture in BMR is not only indicative of a first step toward large-scale production, but a landmark achievement for future restocking efforts of wild populations.

We hope more communities can understand the biology of sea cucumber and its protection within Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary’’, commented Ann Singeo, Executive Director of Ebiil Society. The Ebiil Society works to educate indigenous knowledge of environmental protection and natural resource management to local communities. The Ebiil Society portfolio projects range from terrestrial resource management to youth summer camps of marine resource education and turtle monitoring. BMR over the years has conducted fisheries surveys to inform policy recommendations and the strategic recruitment of international expertise. “

Throughout the years, many researchers have tried to attain the key factors for stable sea cucumber spawning at mariculture scale. Nations such as Fiji, FSM, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Vietnam have built sea cucumber farms and developed a domestic supply chain for the local market. We hope these successful outcomes can bring about a restart to sea cucumber aquaculture, to complement food and economic security in Palau”, concluded BMR Director Leon E. Remengesau.

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