Category Archives: Sea cucumber or beche de mer

25th SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin: Looking forward and back

Seaweed farming Waigina, Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands. Photo by M. Kronen, SPC WIF25.

Seaweed farming Waigina, Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands. Photo by M. Kronen, SPC WIF25.

The Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC), has just released its 25th Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin. Congratulations to the SPC, Bulletin Editors including current editor Dr Veikila Vuki, donors and supporters for this achievement. This issue starts with a message of support from Moses Amos, the new Director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division, who outlines his vision for women in fisheries at the SPC.

The whole issue or individual articles can be downloaded here.


Goulburn Island Women’s Insights and Preferences on Climate Change and Aquaculture

Old giant clam shell, Goulburn Island. Photo: Lisa Petheram.

Old giant clam shell, Goulburn Island. Photo: Lisa Petheram.

In northern Australia, Lisa Petheram, Ann Fleming, Natasha Stacey and Anne Perry reported the results of a first study in Wurruwi community on South Goulburn Island (Northern Territory, Australia) people’s, especially women’s, perceptions and preferences on marine resource use and climate change. The report describes the local communitys’ modern history up to the 2011 establishment of the local Aboriginal Development Corporation (‘Yagbani’) of community representatives. The report gives a good review of the role of natural resources for food (“bushfoods”), cultural identity and the local economy, highlighting just how neglected this knowledge is in current economic, health and social policies and programs. Planning and adjusting to the impacts of emerging climate changes are not yet factored into local people’s lives, and options such as aquaculture are a distant yet distinct possibility. The women prefer less technologically complex forms of aquaculture and would like to see

Donwload the report at:


Research was carried out on South Goulburn Island, Northern Territory, to improve understandings of local, Indigenous people’s dependency on marine resources, and of their perspectives on climate change, and aquaculture as a means towards adapting to climate change. Workshops and interviews were carried out mostly with women, but also some men with an emphasis on the use of participatory and visual techniques to encourage discussion of the future.
Customary knowledge, particularly of the marine environment, appeared to be an integral part of people’s construction of identity. The collection of ‘bushfoods’ had importance in improving and maintaining people’s wellbeing, well beyond nutritional benefits. Participant discussions indicated very limited understanding of western concepts of climate change. Many reported noticing patterns of environmental change in their ‘country’. These observations, combined with movement away from certain customary practices and loss of local knowledge, caused worry to many participants, particularly older generations.

Participants demonstrated a worldview strongly dominated by social and cultural links to the past and present but with weaker linkages to western concepts of ‘the future’. Thus, discussions around planning for adaptation did not fit easily into conceptualisation by many participants, especially when focused on climate change.People’s preferences to adaptation usually concerned building general community capacity, drawing from customary knowledge, being more involved in government decision-making and learning more about scientific knowledge. Enabling greater collection of bush foods and associated interaction with the landscape was also considered key to improving community independence, resilience and wellbeing.

Participants showed strong interest in aquaculture as an option to help diversify food sources and minimise reliance on store purchased foods and provide income for the community – especially under future climate uncertainty. Many older participants saw aquaculture as a way to encourage greater involvement of younger generations in sea management and consequently building autonomy and skills. People preferred low maintenance aquaculture, carried out in a way respectful to culture, directed by community, with support from scientists. Many participants indicated they would feel strong pride if a community enterprise based on customary knowledge could be developed. There was considerable faith in the local corporation in managing decisions relating to aquaculture and adaptation. However, people had limited understanding of
aquaculture practices, technology and logistics and capacity involved in establishing and maintaining enterprises. And although people desired greater employment and skills, conventional employment was not a high aspiration except where work was closely related to the natural environment. 

Implementing programs of ‘aquaculture for adaptation’ will require improved
communication and learning among all stakeholders. This involves developing longterm relationships built on trust, awareness of different worldviews on adaptation, planning, resource management and development. Supporting aquaculture development on Goulburn Island may help adaptation by expanding livelihood options and enhancing collection and local consumption of bushfoods. However, logistics of implementation will be complicated, and will need to be part of a wider set of options. An adaptive management approach that involves community, decision-makers and researchers planning and testing ideas and developing workable solutions could provide the inclusiveness that local community desire.

GAF4 Spotlight was on Gender and Change

The full report, program and all slide presentations from the 4th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries are NOW ONLINE!

Fishery changes shift working spaces, create and destroy jobs and bring overlaps in women’s and men’s roles. 

At the end of GAF4, student volunteers and Piyashi DebRoy (winner of GAF4 AquaFish CRSP Best Student Paper award congratulate all GAF4 participatns.

Congratulations to GAF4 participants from our student volunteers from Chonnam National University, Moon Eun-Ji (left) and Bak So-Hyeon (right), and Piyashi DebRoy (center and winner of GAF4 AquaFish CRSP Best Student Paper award) .

“Gender and fisheries studies, therefore, are increasingly addressing these changes and how women and men were affected by them,” said Dr Nikita Gopal who led the Program Committee that organized this highly energetic and successful event.  GAF4 also continued to fill out the global picture showing that women and gender issues are still not properly understood in the fisheries sector.”

Feedback declared GAF4 the most successful and highest quality of the 6 women in fisheries/gender in aquaculture and fisheries events held by the Asian Fisheries Society over the last 15 years.

On you will find:

Women’s role in sea cucumber fisheries

Women and men interviewed in Nusa Tengah, Semporna. Photo: Poh Sze Choo.

Updated February 2013!

In her recent paper in the SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin, Poh Sze Choo reported, among other results,  on a survey of gender roles in sea cucumber fishing in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia.

She found that “fishers who collect sea cucumbers in Semporna belong to either the Bajau Tempatan or Bajau Laut communities. Most of the fishers are men who mainly fish at night either alone, with friends or with family members (usually their sons). A small number of fishers in Denawan and Nusa Tengah fish with their wives and daughters. In areas where sea cucumbers are still found on shallow reef flats (e.g. Nusa Tengah), women and children frequently glean for sea cucumbers during low tide.” And both women and men are involved in processing the sea cucumbers.

In another article in the same issue of the Information Bulletin, Majid Afkhami and co-authors noted that for the sea cucumber fisheries of Iran and Oman, no women and children were involved in the dive fishery of Iran (Qeshm Island), but that in Oman, when all collection was during low tide and by hand, 50% of were women and children, but this dropped to 15% more recently as the fishery started to became also a dive fishery.

These results raise the question of whether, as, in many parts of the world, sea cucumbers are no longer abundant in shallower waters more accessible to women, women are becoming marginalized in sea cucumber fisheries.

Further information on women in sea cucumber fisheries:

Thanks to a comment from Khalfan Al Rashdi, readers may also be interested to learn about women’s roles in sea cucumber harvesting in Oman. The link to that paper is: (

This very interesting  2007 paper points out that 50% of the beche de mer fishers in your study were women, indicating that men fished in a wider range of fishery types and that children also fished for beche de mer. The traders also seek out the women and other fishers, indicating the high demand for the product.

Choo Poh Sze has also offered her perspectives on women in sea cucumber fisheries more generally:

“Thank you for the link. Sea cucumber being a sedentary species easily collected by hand during low tide is especially suitable for women and children. However when the sea cucumbers are no longer available from the shallow reef flats due to overfishing, sea cucumber landings from women and children will be adversely affected as men will then fish for sea cucumbers in the deeper ares by either free diving or using compressors or  scuba equipment. Night fishing is also practised as sea cucumber are most active at night and scour the seabed.”