Tongan government will ban sea cucumber harvesting amid claims expert advice ignored

The Tongan government will ban harvesting and processing sea cucumbers for three to five years.

Tonga’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon. Semisi Fakahau, has  told Parliament a bill will be submitted to the House soon to alter the current law governing the harvesting of sea cucumbers.

Hon. Fakahau’s comments come after the previous government was charged with ignoring expert advice that the sea cucumber population was declining alarmingly.

The former government was also accused of being pressured by local Asian sea cucumber exporters into repeatedly lifting bans on harvesting beche-de-mer.

Most beche-de-mer from the Pacific is exported to Hong Kong and then goes to mainland China.

Hon. Fakahau said all sea cucumber business operators currently registered with the ministry would have their registration cancelled.

Hon. Fakahau was one of the leading critics of the former Tongan government’s relaxation of the ban on sea cucumber fishing.

He told Parliament the law must be altered to give the right of harvesting, farming and processing sea cucumber to people who lived by the beach in the area where sea cucumbers were harvested.

These areas would be labelled as marine protected areas.

This meant people who were not from those areas would not be allowed to farm sea cucumbers there.

They could only harvest sea cucumbers outside these protected areas.

The government would help residents process and marketing of the beche-de-mer, the minister said.

According to a report by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, The Status of Tonga’s Sea Cucumber Fishery, the beche-de-mer plays a significant role in the kingdom’s economy.

The report said 360 tonnes of beche-de-mer were exported in 2009 and 318 tonnes in 2010. The estimated value to fishers and processors from the two seasons was about US$7 million (TPS$13 million) per season.

A separate report by the international Food and Agriculture Organisation says that in many parts of the Pacific, high value species have been depleted and the viability of many sea cucumber fisheries is a matter for concern.

You can download both these reports using the links  below.

In the run-up to the 2014 election, the previous Tongan government announced it would ban the harvesting of sea cucumbers for five years.

Radio New Zealand International quoted the then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sangster Saulala, as saying in October that the Government would also conduct a scientific survey to review the health of the sea cucumber fisheries.

The main points

  • The Tongan government will ban harvesting and processing sea cucumbers for three to five years, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon. Semisi Fakahau.
  • Fakahau’s comments come after the previous government was charged with ignoring expert advice that the sea cucumber population was declining alarmingly.
  • The former government was also accused of being pressured by local Asian sea cumber exporters into repeatedly lifting bans on harvesting beche-de-mer.
  • Fakahaui said all sea cucumber business operators currently registered with the ministry would have their registration cancelled.

For more information

The Status of Tonga’s Sea Cucumber Fishery (Secretariat of the Pacific Community)

Population status, fisheries and trade of sea cucumbers in the Western Central Pacific (Food and Agriculture Organisation)

Tonga to suspend harvesting of sea cucumber (RNZI)

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news