Determination of the original weight and length of sea cucumbers processed and dried to become bêche-de-mer (BDM), is an important tool in sea cucumber fishery management. The only management mechanism for the sea cucumber fishery in the Fiji Islands is a minimum length prescribed for BDM for export. However, different commercial species have different shrinkage rates during processing and previous studies have suggested modification of fisheries management for sea cucumbers to include species-specific minimum harvest size limits This study determined weight-based and length-based recovery rates (i.e. the length/weight of BDM recovered after processing from the initial length/weight of fresh sea cucumber), for eight commercial sea cucumber species following processing to BDM; White Teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva), Black Teatfish (Holothuria whitmaei), Tigerfish (Bohadschia argus), Surf Redfish (Actinopyga mauritiana), Hairy Blackfish (Actinopyga miliaris), Stonefish (Actinopyga lecanora), Prickly Redfish (Thelenota ananas) and Sandfish (Holothuria scabra). Length and weight recovery rates varied between species and ranged from the highest recovery values of 54.9% for length and 11% for weight in Black Teatfish, to the lowest recovery values of 32.6% for length and 3.0% for weight in Sandfish and Tigerfish, respectively. Length-based and weight-based relationships were generated for each species through the various stages of processing from fresh to dried (BDM) allowing estimation of initial fresh weight/length from partially or fully processed BDM and vice versa. Information generated in this study provides a basis for developing more species-specific harvest size restrictions for sea cucumbers in the Fiji Islands, and has application in stock assessment studies, estimation of harvest data, monitoring of harvest size limits and standardizing catch data.
Regional Studies in Marine Science / Vol. 8, pp.59-64