Vanuatu’s first privately owned and operated sandfish hatchery has opened in Havannah Harbour this week, providing a sustainable model for the commercialisation of the natural resource while also addressing the country’s depleting stock.
Sandfish, a type of sea cucumber, are found in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Indo-Pacific region.
Aquaculture Solutions Vanuatu’s (ASV) hatchery will have the capacity to produce tens of thousands of juveniles for release on adjacent shore habitats around Havannah Harbour and Moso.
The hatchery was constructed in partnership with the Vanuatu Fisheries Department and the Pacific Community (SPC) with support from the Government of Australia.
“This hatchery took six weeks to complete and Vanuatu’s Department of Fisheries is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with ASV which enables the company to harvest sandfish while reserving a percentage of stock for natural breeding. Benefits from this arrangement will flow to coastal communities who will be engaged in the harvest of sea cucumbers after they are released,” SPC’s Mariculture and Aquatic Biosecurity Specialist, Dr Michel Bermudes, said.
Most sandfish, which are either captured or cultured, are harvested and processed into beche-de-mer and this dried form accounts for 95 percent of all sea cucumber species traded annually in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and Japan.
Average retail prices in Hong Kong are USD300 per kilogram and can fetch up to USD1600 per kilogram depending on the quality of the product.
“This type of hatchery provides a sustainable low-tech and low-cost template, a tool for stock enhancement and for marine aquaculture capacity building in Vanuatu. In time, this model can be replicated in other places where sandfish stock enhancement is also needed,” Dr Bermudes said.
SPC has also recently undertaken an initiative in partnership with the World Bank to assess the sea cucumber value chain, production and harvest data in the Pacific’s Melanesia region, with the intention to explore the possibility of establishing a sub-regional beche-de-mer Trust to manage and monitor the exports of high value sea cucumber from the Pacific.
Michel Bermudes, SPC Mariculture and Aquatic Biosecurity Specialist, [email protected] or + 687 26 20 00
The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. It is an international development organisation owned and governed by its 26 country and territory members.