Event Abstract

Newcumber: Advances towards the sustainable rearing of sea cucumbers

  • 1 Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Portugal
  • 2 ESTM, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, 2520-641 Peniche, MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Portugal
  • 3 Departamento de Biologia Vegetal, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
  • 4 Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, BioISI - Biosystems and Integrative Sciences Institute, Portugal
  • 5 Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
  • 6 Centro de Estatística e Aplicações, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
  • 7 Departamento de Estatística e Investigação Operacional, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

The high demand for sea cucumbers in eastern markets, either as a protein source for human consumption or for medicinal purposes, placed an excessive pressure on natural stocks. Sea cucumber aquaculture, set as a valuable alternative for producers and highly developed in Southeast Asia, still falls short on supply. As a consequence, exploitation of natural stocks expanded from the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Mediterranean and Atlantic regions, either by foreign fishery or locally, for foreign trade. Still, an increase in aquaculture production is the natural response to satisfy demand and assuage stock decline, an extant reality for several Holothuroidea species. Although some North-eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean species have already been introduced in the international market, European aquaculture of sea cucumbers is inexistent. Yet, sea cucumber farming demonstrates a high viability due to its low-cost maintenance and high market value. Moreover, their position in the food chain and further detritivorous feeding strategy, makes sea cucumbers excellent candidates for Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture and enables their sustainable rearing in Polyculture systems. In either of which the presence of these detritivorous species can actually be advantageous, as they play a significant role in recycling and redistributing nutrients, by filtering sediment and removing its organic matter. However, the key to a significant contribution to the decrease of natural harvesting and towards the development of sustainable rearing systems lies on the holistic control of the species’ life-cycle, as opposed to relying on the capture of wild juveniles for growth or wild broodstocks for reproduction. The project Newcumber – Advances towards the sustainable rearing of sea cucumbers – aims to achieve a sustainable aquaculture of sea cucumbers, using species from the eastern-Atlantic coast. The project is geographically focused on the Sado region (estuary and coastal area), Portugal, and has four main goals: (1) select the species that best fits the general aim, in terms of tolerance to captivity and manipulation, suitable feeding strategies, suitable reproductive biology, nutritional value and market/consumer acceptance; (2) achieve species domestication, aiming for the optimization of somatic growth and gonad maturation, as well as breeding control in captivity (spawning, viable gamete and early stage larvae); (3) aquaculture system assessment, evaluating the success of extensive systems, by comparison to intensive farming, and attempting polyculture, aiming to yield suitable production results; (4) define a market status for the selected species, aiming to determine how it fits the global market, in comparison to others already valued and traded, either through its nutritional balance for human consumption, taste or production viability. Ultimately, the Newcumber project expects to contribute towards the development of sustainable aquaculture practices for Atlantic sea cucumber species, which are currently untargeted for production. This is a relevant step towards the diversification of the national and European aquaculture sectors, creating an added-value from its marine native resources and increasing the global supply of high value products, thus, leveraging rearing systems of marine products. From a conservation standpoint, a sustainable alternative to the high sea cucumber demand will contribute to reduce the growing pressure on wild stocks and has the potential to support restocking programs to help replenish vulnerable or depleted populations.


This work was financed by the Operational Program Mar2020. It received further financial support from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (project UID/MAR/04292/2013 and A.C. Brito with the Research Programme – IF/00331/2013).

Keywords: Aquaculture, farming, Echinoculture, Holothuroidea, Invertebrates, marine resources

Conference: IMMR'18 | International Meeting on Marine Research 2018, Peniche, Portugal, 5 Jul - 6 Jul, 2018.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Aquaculture

Citation: Félix PM, Pombo A, Azevedo E Silva FH, Simões T, Sousa J, Venâncio E, Narciso L, Amorim A, Melo R, Matos A, Silva AB, Marques T, Rocha C and Brito AC (2019). Newcumber: Advances towards the sustainable rearing of sea cucumbers. Front. Mar. Sci. Conference Abstract: IMMR'18 | International Meeting on Marine Research 2018. doi: 10.3389/conf.FMARS.2018.06.00060

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Received: 30 May 2018; Published Online: 07 Jan 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Pedro M Félix, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Lisbon, Portugal, pmfelix@fc.ul.pt