Catch of lobster and octopus at risk due to overexploitation of sea cucumber, experts warn

Photo: (Yucatan ahora)

Mérida, Yucatán, (August 03, 2021) .- The overexploitation of sea cucumber (Isostichopus badionotus) puts at risk the capture of other commercially important species, since these organisms prevent the deterioration of areas of coexistence with octopus and lobster, warned the specialist of the Merida Unit of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav), Miguel Ángel Olvera Novoa.

He declared that 10 years ago the echinoderm became a fishing resource of economic importance in the Yucatan Peninsula, due to its high value in the Asian market, which has led to the overexploitation of this species and the establishment of a permanent ban that prohibits its capture.

He indicated that the ecological importance of sea cucumbers lies in the fact that by feeding on the organic matter present in the sediment, they keep the seabed clean.

He explained that by decreasing the number of these animals, the seabed deteriorates and that affects other organisms, including some of commercial importance such as octopus and lobster, which has a negative impact on the activity of fishermen and on the Marine ecosystem.

Olvera Novoa participated together with researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Autonomous University of Yucatán (UADY), in a study in which two population restoration strategies for sea cucumber were evaluated.

The research indicates that in opting for these population restoration strategies for sea cucumber, the number of wild specimens to be transferred and the establishment of artificial refuges must be taken into account to guarantee greater survival of the cultivated juveniles upon their release.

“Although the results showed the survival and adaptation of the introduced organisms, for these strategies to work properly, information campaigns about the sea cucumber and its ecological importance are required,” he said.

“In addition to presenting coastal communities with productive options in order to reduce the capture of marine organisms in their natural environment, for example, the cultivation of different species”, said the Cinvestav specialist.

He mentioned that the study methodology consisted of transferring 60 wild individuals of sea cucumber planted at high and low densities, to the most affected areas in the Yucatan peninsula, and releasing the same number of juveniles grown in places close to natural and artificial refuges.

Wild individuals were monitored in nine samplings for 133 days and those cultivated in eight samplings over the course of 67 days, in order to analyze the survival and growth rate, key biological factors for restoration programs of overexploited populations.

Olvera Novoa added that it is necessary to continue researching the biology of the sea cucumber (habits, food preferences, reproductive cycles, among other aspects) to optimize the protection, restoration, and cultivation strategies of this marine organism.

The Yucatan Times
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