In a first for the Pacific, SPC has facilitated a Regional Exchange on Sandfish Aquaculture for Reseeding, bringing together delegates from Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and New Caledonia.

Sandfish is a type of sea cucumber found in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Indo-Pacific region. Sea cucumbers are traded as bêche-de-mer and they play an important role for the food security and livelihood of Pacific Island coastal communities. Being easy to collect by women, men and children, and fetching high prices on the export market, sea cucumbers, are a vulnerable and often overexploited resources. Reseeding of sea cucumber using juveniles produced in hatcheries is one technique available for restoring depleted stocks. The participants nominated for this exchange came from countries with a long bêche-de-mer history and existing or fledgling programmes for reseeding and sea ranching of sandfish.

After decades of capacity building and investment from foreign aid programmes, the south-south exchange funding provided by New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade was a unique opportunity to showcase the expertise acquired in the region and to create a forum for regional experts to come out of the shadow of their international counterparts. The sandfish exchange brought together participants in early-mid career to strengthen their professional networks within the region and among peers facing similar issues or with solutions to common problems.

The exchange provided a platform for countries with differing technical abilities and stages of development to share regional-specific technical experience. Over the last 2 months, delegates from PNG, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Kiribati had the opportunity to travel to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Caledonia to see and experience first-hand the different practices employed in sandfish aquaculture throughout the region. They gained practical skills and exposure to new techniques and modes of operation. Lessons learned from these experiences will be used to build capacity in their home countries, applying and developing the technical skills and knowledge to address local challenges.

The exchange concluded in Noumea by a 2-day workshop to highlight some of the challenges that exist for sandfish restocking in the region. The group highlighted seed production capacity and the lack of effective restocking models as the main constraints to be addressed in the future.

The delegates made a significant commitment at the end of the workshop by pledging to continue to work together after the exchange is over, to create a collaborative working group for sharing knowledge and experience. The role of the working group will be defined with the countries involved over the coming weeks.

Contact: Michel Bermudes, SPC Mariculture Specialist, [email protected]