A proposal to restock Ngarchelong’s seabed with sea cucumber seedlings was rejected when members of the Ngarchelong State Assembly and Ebiil Society found out that the proposal was coming from Palau International Trading Inc. (PITI).
The Ebiil Society CEO Ann Kloulechad confirmed that they were approached but rejected the offer. “We told them to go to a different place,” said Ann Kloulechad.
Minister Steven Victor said he was unaware of another entity providing sea cucumber seedlings. He said that the Marine Resource is conducting research and providing sea cucumber to the Ebiil Society for their reseeding project.
Anyone to provide sea cucumber seedlings, export sea cucumber, or conduct research must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Environment. So far, he said, no one had come to apply for such a permit. He admitted that PITI had expressed interest, but nothing had materialized.
MAFE, explained Minister Victor, is studying the commercial viability of the sea cucumber aquaculture in Palau before expanding the sea cucumber breeding facility to accommodate it. Right now, he said, the BMR hatchery facility is dedicated to the clam industry, with two tanks dedicated to the culturing of sea cucumber.
Tsung-Han (Jack) Lin, the Aquaculture Specialist with the Bureau of Marine Resources, said they are spawning and culturing sea cucumbers and doing experimental farming as part of their research.
Meanwhile, BMR continues to culture sea cucumber seedlings for restocking the states. Aquaculture Specialist Jack Lin said they had distributed 23,000 seedlings to Ngarchelong and Ngardmau.
The sea cucumber trade is lucrative but easily exploitable when not adequately managed, as experienced in 2011.
The House of Delegates this year issued a joint resolution requesting MAFE to “assess the viability of harvesting sea cucumber” for commercial export, taking “lessons learned from 2011”.