Farming sea cucumbers is giving coastal communities in Madagascar an opportunity to earn a sustainable income while contributing to increasing levels of marine life of all kinds, previously in decline due to overfishing.
Sea cucumbers are a vital part of the marine ecosystem. They keep ocean acidity levels in check, decompose organic matter into recyclable nutrients and keep coastal ecosystems healthy and clean. Overfishing sea cucumbers them can have negative impacts on coastal marine environments.
Growing them in designated and contained areas is helping to protect both this important species and other kinds of marine life in the south-west of Madagascar. Because of the part sea cucumbers play in cleaning up the seabed it’s believed that they help maintain stocks of other marine life.
For the last 10 years marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures (BV) has been developing community-based aquaculture models with coastal fishing communities in southwest Madagascar. One of the most promising of these has been the sea cucumber aquaculture model.
In February, farmers from the coastal village of Tampolove in southwest Madagascar experienced their largest harvest ever of over 5,500 sea cucumbers. Together, 78 farmers earned a net profit of $4,800 USD – an average of over $60 per farmer – after paying all operational costs themselves. In a region where the average income is less than $2 per day, it is a potentially transformative sustainable income.
Sea cucumbers are in high demand in Asian markets where they are considered a delicacy, health food and aphrodisiac, and this has led to wild sea cucumber stocks being overexploited. However, it is possible for coastal communities to farm sea cucumbers using simple tools and techniques.
Blue Ventures supports coastal communities to build these skills, and to develop commercial relationships with private sector aquaculture businesses to create ecologically sustainable and socially viable aquaculture businesses that are locally owned and managed.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com