Bright outlook for the sea cucumber industry in China

There are 134 sea cucumber species in Chinese waters. 28 of them are edible or have medical uses. These sea cucumber species are mostly distributed in tropical and subtropical areas and some species such as Apostichopus japonicas which is a valuable species of sea cucumber is found in temperate waters. People in China use sea cucumber as food and medicine. Chinese people consider sea cucumber more valuable than cucumber. Sea cucumber is used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear the blood and treat kidney and skin problems. In the 1980s and with the increasing demand for sea cucumber, many research projects were done for the reproduction and cultivation of sea cucumber. There were some attempts made to reproduce sea cucumber in the early 1950s, but they only came to fruition in the 1980s. Advanced techniques in reproduction and cultivation of Apostichopus japonicas include larvae production, breeding in different environment and مولد سازی. Sea cucumber production reached 6.335 tons in 2002 of which, 5.865 tons were farmed and 470 tons were marine. This amount is not enough to meet the growing demand for sea cucumber in the Chinese market which is why China imports large amounts of dried sea cucumber from other countries every year. Production and farming of sea cucumber is an economically valuable business in northern China which has spread rapidly to the southern parts of this country. The total area of sea cucumber cultivation is about 51,000 hectares and the dry weight of the final production is 6.750 tons, which equals 135,000 to 202500 tons fresh or wet weight. Liaoning province is the biggest producer of farmed sea cucumber. Pandong is the second biggest producer of farmed sea cucumber. In 2003, the total area of sea cucumber cultivation in Shandong province reached 17000 hectares and the final production to 2250 tons, which is equivalent to almost 45000 to 67500 tons of fresh sea cucumber. The ratio of wet vs dry production of sea cucumber is about 1:20-30 depending on the salt level and processing methods. In China, only the Apostichopus japonicas specie is cultured. But marine species such as Thelenota ananas, Holothuria Nobilis, Holothuria seabra, Actinopyga mauritiana, Bohadschia argus, Stichopus hermanni, Stichopus chlonotus are caught in Hainan and Guandong provinces and Apostichopus japonicas in Liaoning and Shandong province. Acaudina leucoprocta, Mensamaria intercedens, and other species of sea cucumber are caught in  Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. The real production of sea cucumber is a little higher than the official statistics, because some fish farmers directly provide the restaurants and consumers with fresh and live sea cucumber. In Shandong and Liaoning provinces, eating steamed or raw sea cucumber with vinegar is very popular. Official statistics show the growing demand for sea cucumber and its by-products. In recent years, the production of farmed sea cucumber has exceeded the production and catching wild sea cucumber.


Marketing and Trading Sea Cucumber in China

Sea cucumber or beche-der-mer in Chinese, is one of the most popular seafood among Chinese people. The Far East is the largest sea cucumber market in the world. China alone is the largest producer, consumer, and importer of sea cucumber in the world. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries are among the marketplace for sea cucumber. The annual consumption of sea cucumber in China is between 10000 and 12000 tons dry weight. Domestic producers supply half of this amount and the rest is imported. Hong Kong is the main hub for sea cucumber imports. In recent years, the United States, Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, New Guinea Papua, the Philippines, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Madagascar, and Japan have exported dried sea cucumbers to China. As mentioned earlier, sea cucumber has been a staple food in China since ancient times. Residents of Liaoning and Shandong provinces consider sea cucumber a delicious seafood. Fresh, dried, and processed sea cucumber is expensive in these provinces. There is a proverb in western countries that says” an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. There is a similar proverb in China that says” a sea cucumber a day keeps the doctor away”. Therefore, it’s natural to envision a bright future and a widely successful market for the sea cucumber industry. The retail price of sea cucumber has skyrocketed significantly since the 1980S. In the 1960s, the retail price of Apostichopus japonicas was 18 RMP per kilogram. In the 1980S, the retail price of Apostichopus japonicas reached 500 RMP per kilogram and between 600-1000 RMP per kg in the 1990S. As of now, the retail price of  Apostichopus japonicas is 3000 RMP or about 400 USD per kg. The increasing prices and high profitability of sea cucumber farmers and investors have resulted in the development of the sea cucumber farming industry in China. Although the production of farmed sea cucumber has surpassed 6000 tons of dry weight but the domestic consumption has been more than the production and therefore, sea cucumber imports must continue. China’s economy entered a new era in the 1980S. China’s economic growth led to increased consumption of sea cucumber. Consumption of seafood especially luxury seafood such as scallops, shrimp, crabs, shark fins, and sea cucumbers has increased significantly. The healing properties of sea cucumber is widely recognized and of importance in China. Since 199S, sea cucumber products are found in pharmacies, chain stores, and also retail shops labeled as "healthy food" and it is predicted that the demand for sea cucumber products will increase. It is expected that the global fishing of wild sea cucumber will experience a decline due to an increase in the production of farmed sea cucumber in China.  In 2003, the production of farmed sea cucumber on the beach and at sea reached 6.750 tons, equivalent to 135000 to 202.500 tons of fresh sea cucumber which roughly equals the global fishing amount of sea cucumber. This is why participants from China at the CITES conference claimed that sea cucumber farming has almost replaced sea cucumber fishing.