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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sea Cucumber, The Gensing of the Sea

Melchor F. Cichon
May 12, 2005

The Philippines is so lucky that it has a lot of natural resources, especially marine resources.
One of these resources is the sea cucumber.
What is a sea cucumber? Definitely, it is not a plant.
It is a sea-bottom dwelling marine invertebrate that has been a favorite dish among the Chinese and the Japanese because of its nutritional and medicinal value.
Among the Filipinos, sea cucumber is just another underutilized resource.
But it can be a source of income, especially if one is staying near the shore.
Based on statistics, the sea cucumbers that are being produced in the Philippines come from different parts of the country.
As of 1984 (that is the latest figure that this writer could get), the top ten sea cucumber producing provinces are as follows:

Province Quantity (in kilograms)

Palawan..... 436,630
Lanao del Norte..... 41,426
Albay..... 19,381
Tawi-Tawi .....14,085
Zamboanga del Sur..... 10,750
Negros Occidental..... 8,000
Aklan .....7,960
Camarines Norte..... 6,850
Marinduque..... 6,292
Zamboanga del Norte..... 3,600

On the national scale, the country is not really producing so much sea cucumber. (see the statistics below)
Studies have shown that sea cucumbers are medicinal.
According to Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda, Director , Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon:, sea cucumber “serves as a rich source of mucopolysaccharides, mainly chondroitin sulfate, which is well-known for its ability to reduce arthritis pain, especially that of osteoarthritis. As little as 3 grams per day of the dried sea cucumber has been helpful in significantly reducing arthralgia. Chondroitin's action is similar to that of glucosamine sulfate, the main building block of chondroitin.”
He further claims that sea cucumber has anticancer properties. He said that the saponins in sea cucumber have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
“In addition,” he said, “the sea cucumber oil contains two anti-inflammatory fractions. One fraction has fatty acids characteristic of those found in fish; they can be used as a substitute for fish oil in reducing inflammatory byproducts of fat metabolism, and to nourish the brain and heart. The main compounds of interest in fish oil are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid also found in sea cucumber, and DHA (docosahaenoic acid), unique to fish:”
But it is advisable to ask your doctor in case you will take sea cucumber’s capsules as a medicine.
Because of its nutritional and medicinal reasons, the demand for sea cucumber can be great.
But can the Philippines supply this demand?
Based on available statistics, the Philippines does not produce so much sea cucumber, although there is a great potential that our country can produce more.
One such area is Maqueda Bay, Samar.
And one of the most sought after species of sea cucumber from this area is Holothuria scabra
Because of its dollar earning potential, our fisheries scientists should culture this fishery resource. At the same time, the law enforcers should regulate the harvesting of this animal to further prevent its overexploitation.
Below is the production statistics of sea cucumber in the Philippines since 1949-1997.
It should be noted that the production of sea cucumber in the Philippines is fluctuating.
From 1949 up to 1984, sea cucumber production in the country did not reach a million kilogram mark.
But effective 1985, that figure was reached, only to go down from 3,258,000 kilograms in 1985 to 1,191,000 kilograms in 1997.
But could have been the reason for this downfall?
Since, there is no study to this effect, we can only surmise.
There must have been overexploitation of sea cucumber in the country and the government has no specific program to rehabilitate this species.

Sea Cucumber Production in the Philippines, 1957-1997
Compiled by Melchor F. Cichon

Year Production (in Kg) Value (in PhP)
1949 .....3211..... 642
1950..... 2613..... 523
1951..... 4446..... 889
1952..... 40992.... 818
1953..... 3460..... 808
1954..... 63070... 6627
1955..... 9366..... 2396
1956.... .3006..... 704
1957..... 7933..... 3684
1958..... 5355.... 1820
1959.....1953..... 957
1960.... 10140... 3336
1961.... 17302... 5062
1962.... 10668... 4001
1963.... 7235.... 1997
1964.... 9714... 10565
1965... 6145.... 4596
1966... 402..... 302
1967... 8217... 35943
1968...5247... 3855
1969.. 3248 ...2347
1970.. 5450 ...1254
1971 ..75618.. 18410
1972.. 5600... 15125
1973.. 36188.. 23635
1974.. 110... 390
1975 ..44763.. 135163
1976.. 79182.. 194112
1977.. 34431.. 110288
1978.. 226622 ..479338
1979.. 40646 ..192336
1980 ..32944.. 96366
1981 ..32328 ..236548
1982.. 90725 ..366627
1983.. 255917 ..2115810
1984.. 562379 ..4356753
1985.. 3258000 ..No record
1986.. 3367000.. No record
1987.. 3612000.. 1580*
1988.. 3193000.. 1501
1989.. 3534000.. 1662
1990... 4023000.. 2080
1991... 3535000 ..1909
1992... 3679000 ..2181
1993... 3109000 ..No record
1994... 1497000.. No record
1995... 2062000.. 602
1996... 2123000.. 619
1997... 1191000.. 659

* Starting here in US$1000


  1. Scores of places in the Philippines, mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao, have been confirmed to be good breeding grounds for sea cucumber. This means sea-ranching as well as farm-breeding possibilities. If government could put up capital loans, I'm confident many Filipinos will get on with the idea.

  2. Our cooperative, Fejada Trading, is seeking partnerships with other small dried sea cucumber enterprises so we could jointly and collectively meet export quotas, leverage pricing, and protect our respective businesses from manipulation. My Facebook is Aniceto B. Canturias and my mobile is 09173163935. Message me if interested.