Sea cucumber fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park shows worrying signs of being unsustainable. Sea cucumbers play a vital role in reef health and they may help reduce the harmful impact of ocean acidification on coral growth. The viability of their numbers may well be crucial to the condition of coral reef ecosystems.
In recent years more than 24 sea cucumber fisheries in tropical nations including nearby Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have had their fisheries closed due to overfishing. Over 70 percent of tropical sea cucumber fisheries are now considered depleted, fully exploited or over-exploited.
Until we have a better understanding of levels of sustainable harvest – and the impact this will have on the reef, precautionary reductions in sea cucumber fishing is needed.