The Fijian sea cucumber fishery began in the early 1800’s in response to demand from Asian markets for bêche-de-mer. The fishery has shown classic ‘boom and bust’ production cycles for much of its life. From 1984-2012 a total of 8,620 t of bêche-de-mer were exported from Fiji. Particularly large volumes were exported in 1987 (>600 t), 1988 (>700 t) and 1996 (>600 t) and declines in export volumes are notable following these peaks. Subsequent export peaks of around 400 t in 2005 and 2011, are considerably lower than those in the 1980s and 1990s and after 2005, annual exports averaged 243 t. Between 2003 and 2012 export volumes of high value species declined from 14-8%, while that of medium value species increased from 50-59%. Sandfish (Holothuria scabra) appeared on export manifests in 2003 and 2004 despite an export moratorium for this species. Despite numerous recommendations to improved sustainability of the Fijian sea cucumber fishery, management measures consist primarily of an export size limit of 7.62 cm for bêche-de-mer. Over-exploitation of the resource and declining sea cucumber stocks have resulted. A historic overview of the Fijian sea cucumber fishery was provided within the context of the various fishery management approached adopted by other South Pacific Island nations. It includes data gathered by interviews with sea cucumber fishermen, bêche-de-mer processors and other stakeholders and makes recommendations for an effective management plan for a fishery that is an important livelihood activity for coastal communities in Fiji.
Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science / Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.191-205