Sea cucumber fisheries provide an important source of cash income to isolated coastal communities throughout the Pacific islands region through the processing and sale of ‘bêche-de-mer’. Regrettably, for many communities these small-scale fisheries no longer yield the benefits they once did due to over-fishing. In areas where there are few other opportunities to earn income, this has resulted in families and, in some cases, whole villages suffering. The over-fishing has been exacerbated by the sedentary nature of sea cucumbers and the ease with which they can be collected from inshore habitats. Although more remote areas once provided some refuge from fishing for these vulnerable animals, this is no longer the case—these areas are now more readily accessed by divers using better boats and underwater breathing apparatus taking advantage of improved access to markets.
In response to the dire condition of many sea cucumber fisheries today, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) convened the ‘Papua New Guinea, Pacific Islands and Northern Australia Sea Cucumber Fisheries Management Workshop’, held at Motupore Island Research Centre, Papua New Guinea, 20–23 March 2006. This booklet is a direct outcome of that workshop.