10 Dec 2013

Reefs stripped bare of sea cucumber in American Samoa

9:04 pm on 10 December 2013

A fisheries officer in American Samoa says a moratorium on sea cucumber fishing was urged because reefs were being stripped bare of the species.

For the first time, a six month moratorium has been placed on the taking and removing of sea cucumbers in American Samoa, in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

A fisheries biologist with the department of marine and wildlife resources, Alice Lawrence, says Samoans typically would take sea cucumbers for personal use only, or sell a small amount at the markets.

But she says recently the species has been removed at an alarming rate.

"But what we were seeing was thousands. Thousands and thousands of sea cucumber just being removed from the reef. They were just removing everything, they were not leaving anything there. The Samoans are fishing it, but they were actually selling it, or there are some Asian businessmen who are actually buying it and the idea is that they are going to export it to Asia and sell it for a lot of money. It's really a big commercial operation."

Alice Lawrence says it's a big worry because the same thing has happened to other pacific nations.