Sea cucumber Research and Development Center
Sea cucumber fishery is a significant livelihood in the Philippines; however, overexploitation and inadequate management programs resulted in the decline of various sea cucumber species. This paper describes the current sea cucumber fisheries across 32 municipalities in Mindanao assessed from August 2019 to January 2020 through key informant surveys (KIS) and focus group discussions (FGD). About 47 sea cucumbers were identified from KIS, mostly for export. The high-value Holothuria scabra is the most exploited species across Mindanao, but the top catches are mainly composed of low to medium-value species. At least four sea cucumber species were noted by gatherers to have disappeared from some sites during the KIS. The FGDs showed that the sea cucumber fishery is small-scale, involving about 1,922 gatherers from 10 municipalities. Half of them (56%) engage in full-time sea cucumber gathering and employ various methods depending on the location of their collection grounds. Estimates of mean daily sea cucumber catch ranged from 1–7.3 kg-1 gatherer-1 day-1, with the highest catch in Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay, and lowest in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental. Catch per unit effort ranged from 0.2-1.8 kg-1 gatherer-1 day-1, with the highest catch rate in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur, and lowest in Laguindingan. Gatherers often sold their catches as fresh to consolidators or traders. Net incomes from the combined fresh catches ranged from PHP 70–950, with the highest income in Olutanga and the lowest in Laguindingan. Historical trendlines show decreasing catches in all sites over time. Overall, the sea cucumber fishery in Mindanao is rapidly declining and needs urgent management interventions to sustain stocks and livelihoods.