East Hawaii News

Permanent Measure Limits Sea Cucumber Harvest

January 4, 2016, 12:23 PM HST
* Updated January 4, 2:40 PM
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DLNR file photo.

DLNR file photo.

Late last week, Governor David Ige signed a measure that limits the collection of sea cucumbers.

The measure follows a 120-day emergency rule that temporarily banned the harvest of sea cucumbers in Hawai’i. The measure will go into effect on Jan. 10.

“The DLNR worked quickly to stop the mass harvesting of sea cucumbers, and then to develop and propose permanent rules,” said Governor Ige.  “This action is expected to protect and sustain critically important sea cucumber populations in our near-shore waters.”

Under the permanent rule, large-scale commercial harvesting of sea cucumbers is banned after a large spike in harvesting took place in 2015.

Some near-shore areas of Maui and Oahu were cleared of sea cucumbers, according to officials.

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Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case says the creatures act as vacuum cleaners of the ocean.

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“Under the law now in effect, licensed aquarium collectors are allowed to harvest two species of sea cucumbers from Oahu waters only, with a 20-per-day maximum and an annual take of no more than 3,600 for the entire commercial fishery,” Case said.  “These numbers are based on data collected over many years and is expected to be sustainable.

“The rules allow a small level of take for personal, non-commercial use.  We will continue to monitor the sea cucumber population over the next few years to determine whether we’ve correctly set the harvest at sustainable levels, and if not, whether we need to make adjustments in the future.”

On Dec. 11, the BLNR approved the rules after holding hearings across the state.

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There were no regulations regarding sea cucumber harvesting prior to the implementation of the 120-day emergency rule in late 2015.

“Without this prompt action, the short-lived, mass harvest of sea cucumbers could have been an ecological disaster for the sea cucumber and its role in the health of Hawai’i’s coral reefs,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, the Administrator of the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.

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