Availability of Sea Cucumber In Indian Waters And Its Importance
and Rajita Devi2
1: FEES Division, Central
Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai-400061
2: College of Fisheries,
AAU, Raha, Nagaon, Assam-782103
Email of corresponding
Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from
the class Holothuroidea
(Kingdom: Animalia and Phylum:
Echinodermata). They are marine
a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single,
Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide. There are a
number of holothurian species
and genera, many of which are targeted for human consumption. Like
all echinoderms, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just
below the skin, calcified structures that are usually reduced to
isolated microscopic ossicles (or sclerietes) joined by connective
tissue. These can sometimes be enlarged to flattened plates, forming
Sea cucumbers are a fascinating group of marine
animals. They live chiefly among corals but are also found among
rocks and in muddy and sandy flats. They are distributed from the
shore to the greatest depths. Their lengths range from a few
millimetres to more than 2 m and they occur in all color
combinations: white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, violet etc.
Some of them are really very beautiful while alive and are in great
demand for aquaria. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans consider them a
delicacy. The toxins of sea cucumbers have antiviral, antitumoral,
anticancerous and antifertility properties and find use in the
pharmaceutical industry. At present nearly
1400 species of sea cucumbers are known from all the seas in the
world. Of these only 15 species are used for processing at present.
Sea cucumbers communicate with each other by
sending hormone signals through the water. Some species of coral-reef
sea cucumbers within the order Aspidochirotida can
defend themselves by expelling their sticky cuvierian tubules
(enlargements of the respiratory tree that float freely in
to entangle potential predators. The
release of these tubules can also be accompanied by the discharge of
a toxic chemical known as holothurin,
which has similar properties to soap. This chemical can kill any
animal in the vicinity and is one more way in which these sedentary
animals can defend themselves.
Some of the important sea cucumber species in Indian waters
There are nearly 200 known species in the seas around India, most of
them in deep waters. About 75 species have been shown to be present
in shallow waters while nearly 50 species can be collected from the
intertidal region. Nearly 20 species of sea cucumber found in the
Indian waters have the commercial importance. Some of the
commercially important sea cucumber species are mentioned below.
fuscogilva (White teatfish)
ananas (Prickly redfish)
Fig 1: H. scabra
2: H. fuscogilva
Fig 3: H. nobilis
4: H. spinifera
of sea cucumber
cucumbers are typically 10 to 30 centimetres (3.9 to 12 in) in
length, although the smallest known species is just 3 millimetres
(0.12 in) long, and the largest can reach 1 metre (3.3 ft).
The body ranges from almost spherical to worm-like. The anterior end
of the animal containing the mouth corresponds to the oral pole of
other echinoderms, while the posterior end containing the anus
corresponds to the aboral pole. Thus, compared with other
echinoderms, sea cucumbers can be said to be lying on their side.
all echinoderms, sea cucumbers possess pentaradial symmetry. Most sea
cucumbers have five strip-like ambulacral areas running along the
length of the body from the mouth to the anus. Sea cucumber typically
possesses an internal skeleton composed of plates of calcium
carbonate. In most sea cucumbers, however, these have become reduced
to microscopic ossicles embedded beneath the skin. A few genera, such
retain relatively large plates, giving them scaly armour.
Diet and digestive system
are generally scavengers,
feeding on debris in the benthic
the ocean. The diet of
most cucumbers consists of plankton and
decaying organic matter found in the sea. Some sea cucumbers position
themselves in currents and
catch food that flows by with their open tentacles. They also sift
through the bottom sediments using
A pharynx lies
behind the mouth and is surrounded by a ring of ten calcareous
plates. In most sea cucumbers, this is the only substantial part of
the skeleton, and it forms the point of attachment for muscles that
can retract the tentacles into the body for safety as for the main
muscles of the body wall. Many species possess
an oesophagus and stomach,
but in some the pharynx opens directly into the intestine.
The intestine is typically long and coiled, and loops through the
body three times before terminating in a cloacal chamber,
or directly as the anus.
Reproduction and life
sea cucumbers reproduce by releasing sperm and ova into
the ocean water. Depending on conditions, one organism can produce
thousands of gametes.
Sea cucumbers are typically dioecious,
with separate male and female individuals, but some species
The reproductive system consists of a single gonad,
consisting of a cluster of tubules emptying into a single duct that
opens on the upper surface of the animal, close to the tentacles.
least 30 species, including the red-chested
sea cucumber (Pseudocnella
insolens) fertilize their eggs
internally and then pick up the fertilized zygote with one of their
feeding tentacles. The egg is then inserted into a pouch on the
adult's body, where it develops and eventually hatches from the pouch
as a juvenile sea cucumber. A few species are known to brood their
young inside the body cavity, giving birth through a small rupture in
the body wall close to the anus.
all other species, the egg develops into a free-swimming larva,
typically after around three days of development. The first stage of
larval development is known as an auricularia,
and is only around 1 millimetre (0.039 in) in length. This
larva swims by means of a long band of cilia wrapped
around its body. As the larva grows it transforms into
with a barrel-shaped body and three to five separate rings of cilia.
The tentacles are usually the first adult features to appear, before
the regular tube feet.
as food and medicines
are many commercially important species of sea cucumber that are
harvested and dried for export for use in Chinese
cuisine as Hoi
sam. Some of the commonly available
important food species of sea cucumber are H.
varieties of sea cucumber (known as gamat in
Malaysia or teripang in
Indonesia) are said to have excellent healing properties. In
foreign countries there are
pharmaceutical companies being built based on gamat. But in India sea
cucumber is not commercially important till today. Extracts are
prepared from different parts of the sea cucumber and made into oil,
cream or cosmetics. A study suggested that the sea cucumber contains
all the fatty acids necessary to play a potential active role in
tissue repair. Another study found
that lectin from Cucumaria
the development of the malaria parasite
produced by transgenic mosquitoes.
made from sea cucumber
Products made from sea cucumber are sold in the markets in following
forms: konowata (salted intestine), konoko (dried gonad) and dried
muscle. Konowata, konoko and dried muscle of
sea cucumber are considered delicacy for Japanese.
The prices paid for the product are very much
higher than the price for fresh sea cucumbers. In preparation of
konowata, before removal of intestine, the animals are kept in clean
seawater for a certain period to empty the intestine before gutting.
After the intestine is removed, the contents are squeezed out by hand
without breaking the canal. The intestines are washed in clean
seawater and rinsed. The viscera are salted using 10—15% salt by
weight of the raw viscera. One-third of the total salt are added to
the product first to extract water from the body. After draining
occurred, more salt is added, and mixed thoroughly for five and half
hour. The mixture is put into a wood barrel and cover with a lid to
allow the product fermented. Occasional stir might need during the
fermenting period. The finished product is packed in bottles and
distributed to retailers. The nutritive value of the product is 76.5%
water, 9.3% protein, 1.3% fat, 0.5% carbohydrate and 12.4% ash. The
price of konowata is paid partly on the length of the intestines.
Longer intestines command higher price.
This product is the most expensive product
prepared from sea cucumber. It commands the price at US $200/kg. The
product is not common mainly because it is difficult to procure. The
product does not weigh more than 2.5% of the body weight during the
spawning season. Moreover during post-spawning season the gonad is
much smaller, only a small fraction of a percent of body weight.
of gonad as well as intestine from sea cucumber does not to kill
animals. Small incision on body wall is enough to remove the gonad
and intestine. The cut made on the body wall will heal in 5—7 days.
The intestine will regenerate, and the same quality or even more can
be obtained in the following year.
This product is made from the longitudinal
muscles of sea cucumber. It is tender and taste like high quality
clam meats. Beside Japanese and Chinese, the product is also
palatable to American and European. It is a high potential product
for those markets. The removal of the long, thin longitudinal muscles
is facilitated by placed the sea cucumber in pure, clean seawater to
contract or shortening the muscles. The muscle are preserved in
brine, and sold in market in canned products.
This product used in gourmet soups or other
delicacy Chinese dishes. It is the most common product made from sea
cucumber. Price paid for the beche-de-mer varies greatly depending on
the species of sea cucumber used and the care given during
processing. The best species are large and the body walls are thick.
Factors that may influence the quality of the product during
sea cucumber takes a long time to die and the body disintegrates
before death. It should be killed instantly by immersion in boiling
seawater to preserve its wholesomeness.
Scum from fine
mud and debris on its body wall have to be removed without loosing
the nutritive matter of the body wall. Partial decomposition or
softening of the outer wall facilitates removal of scum.
On completion of processing, the product is graded on the basis of
length, appearance, odor and weight per kg. Packing materials are
copra sacks, jute-hessian sacks and plastic bags. To avoid the
re-drying, the vacuum pack may be a necessity. The good quality of
product should have uniform, non-distorted shapes. It should be hard
and dry, moisture content allow up to 20—30 per cent. The product
should have a pleasing odor and be free of dirt.
Scope of sea cucumber farming in India
Studies conducted in India showed that the sea
cucumber juveniles and young adults of Holothuria
relatively fast in prawn farms by making use of the feed waste. The
growth of the sea cucumber juveniles is three times faster when they
are grown in the prawn farm without affecting the normal prawn
farming activities. If juvenile H.
produced in good numbers it is advisable to release them directly
into the farm at the rate of 30000 juveniles/hectare. The growth rate
is expected to be better when freely grown in the prawn farm rather
than in a confined space like a concrete ring. The juveniles are
expected to reach harvestable weight at the end of one year.
Sea cucumber farming is now becoming popular in
most of the south-east Asian countries. But except the wild catch, it
is not commercially cultured in the water bodies of India. Proper
planning and initiative is utmost necessity in this direction to
enhance the production of sea cucumber throughout the country.
Moreover good policy and subsidy schemes are also important to
attract the farmers. So Government should take the initiative to
enhance its farming in the country.
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Seafood — Fish — Crustacea
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