Beche-de-mer or sea cucumber is considered a delicacy in China and top varieties can sell for more than $US2000 dollars a kilo.
Fiji's new minister of Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau told Koroi Hawkins he has already banned the use of scuba-diving gear for harvesting beche-de-mer but it has done little to slow exports.
SEMI KOROILAVESAU: So what we are going to do now is what we call seasonal ban. So there has to be a punitive ban where we will carry out another survey and and see the population of this stock and then review our system from there.
KOROI HAWKINS: Have you decided on the season? When it will be open and closed?
SK: Basically, I have to formalise it because we need to go through the process that is contained in the recommendations. I am hoping it will be banned by the end of this month.
KH: In Solomon Islands they have been issues with seasonal bans. The issue is with local communities continue to harvest and stockpile and just wait for that ban to pass and the season to open and they just ship all the stored beche-de-mer for sale. So it didn't have the impact that was really needed, do you think a longer term solution might be needed?
SK: I think a longer period is required. My views it that we need to assist also culturally from and basically I've just come from...where they culture them incubators. What we need to do and what I'm going to propagate is actually culture and introduce them back into the wild so that it regenerates and improves quite dramatically.
KH: That is quite innovative and quite cutting edge, do you have the facilities for that?
SK: Yes we are already breeding it - we are breeding sandfish quite successfully we have moved sandfish from one island to another and the villages have been breeding it quite successfully because of our system. They basically do it as a village or district project for the sandfish that is allowed to be harvested and that is the legal operation. By totally banning exports it means that the financial interest of the exporters will be taken away out of the equation.
KH: And obviously livelihoods for rural communities
SK: Yes, it will factor in communities and but we will have to provide alternative types of fishing to that so that we can assist them in this issue going forward. We have already done quite an expensive operation by laying FADs (Fish Aggregating Device) , but deepsea fishing and this is what we intend to do to alleviate the issues that will come out of the stoppage on the amount of beche-de-mer.