Review of fisheries and management of sea cucumbers in the Indian Ocean
Several sea cucumber species (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) are fished, mostly for export of the dried product for Oriental consumers. Previous studies had analysed the historical trends at the world-scale until 2014. In the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) holothurian fisheries have a long history and several programmes have tried to ameliorate their management. Information has been recently gathered through a questionnaire and access to the most recent, yet unpublished available data (2015 to 2021) from different countries, through the evaluation of catches and/or processed product, present management systems, the imports of beche de mer and other products from Indian Ocean (IO) countries into the major market hub of Hong Kong SAR, and the Food and Agricuture Organisation (FAO) yearly statistics. The results are first presented for WIO countries, highlighting recent improvements in management. Imports from 16 WIO countries into the Hong Kong market (2017-2020 data) indicate the importance of the hub. The FAO world statistics are used to present the changes for the last few years, concentrating on the WIO countries. The recent trends show that demand for holothurians is still very high. Inconsistencies in the unit used in the reported statistics (fresh or dry weight) exist, and this needs to be addressed. The national data should be collected at the species level, to be able to follow the changes and the stock status. A regional approach is needed to encourage use of comparable management tools and follow future trends.