The stock of beche-de-mer in the reefs around Gizo, Western Province has been depleted, according to fisheries scientist Dr Gregory Bennett.
Dr Bennett manages the WorldFish research station at Nusa Tupe island near Gizo and leads a team with experience in fisheries.
The team closely monitored the beche-de-mer population around Gizo during the open harvest period from last September to the end of January.
Dr Bennett said they were near Logha just outside of Gizo after the beche-de-mer harvest and export ban was lifted, and they saw 89 canoes with two people in each diving for the sea cucumber.
“If you imagine 89 canoes diving five times a week, then you imagine that for three months, obviously you see that they hammered the reef,” he said. “And it’s very obvious — if you look now, there is nothing.”
Dr Bennett said people even harvested the low-value lollyfish species.
“Now that the ministry of fisheries has closed the harvesting of beche-de-mer, it would be good to have a baseline study to find out what is left now after the harvest,” he said.
Dr Bennett said people in communities around Gizo want to look after their resources, but their mindsets have to change.
“A challenge that we realised through our work is that in communities where governance is weak, resource management is weak,” he said.
One possible solution is to focus on educating youth.
They will be affected in the future, Dr Bennett said, so they need to grow up with the right knowledge to look after their resources.
“I think if we want to start now, it’s important that all of us in the communities should organise and think about it in a more holistic way of how to manage resources,” he said.
By Kikiva Tuni