The trade of sea cucumber is new to Liberia and there is a limited knowledge of fishmongers and processors on sea cucumber fishing, handling and processing.
A Sea Cucumber, an animal in the same family as starfish that looks like a lumpy sausage, lives on the ocean floor. It is in high market demand in countries of Asia. The creature is nutritious with a high protein and of immense medicinal benefits.
To ensure that Liberia now participates in the trade, over 40 individuals comprising divers, fishermen, fishmongers and some technicians of the fisheries sector of Liberia, have acquired knowledge on how to sustainably fish or trade for sea cucumbers.
Fisheries experts discovered the sea cucumber in Liberia’s marine ecosystem in 2013 and are working to protect the stocks and for the trade to effectively impact the livelihood of coastal communities.
The training was conducted by international fisheries experts from Rome and Senegal under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA).
It was held from April 12-14, 2023 in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County with the objective to create awareness about the sea cucumber and to organize the hand on training on safer hookah diving safety and sea cucumber processing.
The training comes shortly following the validation of the country’s fisheries management plan by stakeholders.
The fisheries management plan, if fully implemented by the country’s fisheries authorities, will ensure a sustainable fisheries sector.
“It will ensure the harvest, enable divers with the necessary tools to facilitate timely reporting, conduct additional training for fisheries enumerators and inspectors, and monitor & control possible encroachment from neighboring coastal countries,” said Augustine Manoballah, Deputy Director for Administration at NaFAA.
Monoballah believes that implementing this plan will serve as a source of revenue for the government and will create job opportunities for Liberians in the sea cucumber fishery sector.
“This is the first time that we are having a species-specific management plan in Liberia, and we want to assure our partners that this will not be the last. Similar concepts will be applied to other species, especially our highly valuable shrimp fishery,” he said.
Meanwhile, divers and fishermen as well as fishmongers have expressed excitement about the skills acquired from the training and the possibility to venture into the new trade. Some of the participants told this reporter that their fishing career for sea cucumbers could become more profitable if they are empowered with the necessary tools and equipment for sea cucumbers.“We have seen that the Chinese are trading the products. If we are fully empowered we will raise more incomes for our families and the nation. I am a fisherman, but I am now educated that the sea cucumber is a profitable trade. What we want is for the government to invest in us. The knowledge learnt has motivated me to become divers. I would like to thank the FAO and NaFAA for organizing the training,” Philip Nagbe, a fisherman from Rivercess County said.