Staff from the Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) and the Coastal Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC) have just completed a six week field assessment of sea cucumber (mokohunu) populations in Vava’u, Ha’apai and Tongatapu.
Sea cucumbers represent an important source of livelihood for the people of Tonga, yet the fishery has been one of ‘boom and bust’, characterised by a few years of relatively large harvests and heavy fishing pressure followed by years of very poor harvests and long-term moratoria to allow depleted stocks to recover. Most recently, a moratorium on the harvest and export of sea cucumbers was imposed in October 2015 for a period of five years due to concerns over their current status and to allow stocks to build.
The purpose of the current survey was to provide information on the status of sea cucumber populations at the start of the moratorium. Information gained during the survey included species presence, abundance, density and population size structure. A secondary purpose was to train MoF staff in assessment techniques so that assessments can be conducted in the future. It is intended that a follow-up survey be conducted towards the end of the moratorium to evaluate whether stocks have recovered, and whether the fishery can be re-opened.
The assessment was funded by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through assistance to the Coastal Fisheries Programme of SPC.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Brad Moore
Dr. Siola'a Malimali
Ministry of Fisheries