Sea CUcumber as new MARine reSoURce: potential for aquaculture (CUMARSUR). | - CCMAR -

Sea CUcumber as new MARine reSoURce: potential for aquaculture (CUMARSUR).

Short Title 
Budget CCMAR 
FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
04/2016 to 03/2019


Main info
CUMARSUR project will develop new biotechnology for aquaculture of sea cucumbers from NE Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. As finfish stocks have declined worldwide, exploitation has turned to invertebrate fisheries with a consequence that many are becoming overfished due to intense exploitation pressure. Reports have documented both the rapid climb in value of traded sea cucumbers and the increase in their fisheries around the world (Anderson et al. 2011; Purcell et al. 2013), because they are a high-value export commodity for Asian seafood markets (Purcell 2014) and have valuable properties for producing pharmaceuticals (González-Wangüemert et al. 2014). Most of holothurian stocks have been over-fished in Indian and Pacific Oceans (Purcell et al. 2013), resulting in the search of new target species (Holothuria polii, H. mammata, H. tubulosa and H. arguinensis) from Mediterranean and NE Atlantic (González-Wangüemert et al. 2014). In fact, in the last three years, were already detected some signals of over-exploitation on these new target species from Turkish waters (González-Wangüemert et al. 2015) with loss of individuals showing the highest sizes and weights and even loss of genetic diversity.
The market of sea cucumbers in European countries exporting to Asiatic countries is becoming more important each day. For example recently, it was approved a new legislation to catch H. forskali in Spanish waters (
/economia/autorizada-explotacion-pepino-mar-galicia/20150102102905453748). In Spain, more than 10 companies are already exporting sea cucumbers to China (, some of them with a total revenue of 1-2 millions $ US (Sea Cucumber Int. SL). In Portugal, several companies (Omegauasia, Victor Barbosa, Nuno Carvalho) are selling sea cucumbers, mainly Holothuria arguinensis, H. sanctori, H. forskali and H. mammata, offering supply ability among 2.000-50.000 Kg/month and prices oscillating among 70-350 euro/kg ( depending on quality of product.
Owing to strong market drivers for these luxury seafoods, aquaculture presents a profitable alternative export source and could provide a tool for future culture-based stocking programs (i.e. sea ranching and sea farming). While sea cucumber aquaculture methods have been developed for eastern Asian and Indo-Pacific species, resulting in lucrative aquaculture production (Hair et al.2012), biotechnology for species in the Mediterranean and NE Atlantic is not developed. In addition to providing a high-value export commodity, sea cucumbers can also reduce wastes from fish and shellfish aquaculture because they eat waste products on the sea floor.
Therefore the main goals of this proposal are:
1) to identify the optimal species of sea cucumbers for aquaculture in NE Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea;
2) to develop their aquaculture biotechnology (i.e., breeding and maintenance of larvae and juveniles);
3) to evaluate the potential of sea cucumbers aquaculture for commercial production and further stocking activities as management tools;
4) to assess the benefits of co-culturing the sea cucumbers at fish and shellfish farms as a means to reducing environmental
This proposal (CUMARSUR) is a next step from CUMFISH project (PTDC/MAR/119363/2010), which generated vital information on genetics, reproduction, feeding, behaviour, fisheries, population dynamics and growth rates of commercially-important sea cucumbers from Mediterranean Sea and NE Atlantic Ocean. Also, the recent agreements and collaborations among CCMAR and three aquaculture companies (Piscifactorias Albaladejo S.L., Aquamar S.A., and Atlantik Fish, Lda) and one company Taxon S.L., dedicated to assessment of environmental impacts, furnish an avenue for technology transfer from the Research Institution to industry.
Our proposal accomplishes the main objective of “Plano Estratégico Plurianual Nacional, 2014-2020” transmitted from Direção-Geral de Recursos Naturais, Segurança e Serviços Marítimos to European Commission ( to increase and diversify the offer of national aquaculture products, considering their sustainability, quality and feeding safety to satisfy the needs from markets and contribute for local developing and promoting employment. This objective will allow the promotion and further development of a Portuguese aquaculture sustainable under environmental perspective, productive on resources, innovative, competitive and based on knowledge (Article 6o, point 2, Regulamento (UE) n.o 508/2014 do Parlamento Europeu e do Conselho, de 15 de maio de 2014).