Value, market preferences and trade of beche-de-mer from Pacific Island sea cucumbers

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Purcell, SW 2014, 'Value, market preferences and trade of beche-de-mer from Pacific Island sea cucumbers', PLoS One, vol. 9, no. 4.

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Market preferences of natural resources contribute to shape their exploitation and production. Beche-de-mer, the product after gutting, cooking, salting and drying sea cucumbers, is exported worldwide to Asian dried seafood markets. A better understanding of the trade, value and market preferences of Pacific island beche-de-mer could identify critical postharvest processing techniques and management strategies for fisheries and aquaculture. Data were collected on export prices and trade of beche-de-mer from Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia, and the selling prices, respective sizes and organoleptic properties of the products in stores in China. Export prices varied considerably within and among the four countries and low-value species were the most exported by volume. Most of the beche-de-mer from the four Pacific islands is exported to Hong Kong, where quality products are sold and others are distributed to mainland China. Prices of the beche-de-mer in Chinese stores varied up to ten-fold and were mostly influenced by species, body size and, to a lesser extent, physical damage to the products. Market prices across species (averaging US$15–385 kg−1) appear to have mostly increased six- to twelve-fold over the past decade. The data allude that fisheries forHolothuria scabra, H. lessoni, H. fuscogilva, H. whitmaei and Thelenota ananas should be most carefully managed because they were the highest-value species and under greatest demand. The relationships between size of beche-de-mer and sale price were species specific and highly varied. This study also highlights the need for better regulations and/or enforcement of minimum size limits in sea cucumber fisheries, which can help to maximise economic benefits of wild stocks.

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