Sea Cucumbers

FJ

What is a Sea Cucumber?

Sea cucumbers (often known as ‘beche-de-mer’) are shaped as the name implies; like a soft-bodied (invertebrates) cucumber, they primarily live on or near the ocean floor and consume small microscopic particles of algae and aquatic animals (omnivores). Their life span can vary, but typically ranges from 5 to 10 years. Throughout Fijian history, sea cucumbers have become a major export, being shipped out through the Fiji ports, typically the Port of Lautoka and the Port of Suva, to many surrounding Asian continents, where the sea cucumber has become a fine delicacy. Sustainable practices have been developed across Fiji to protect and maintain this industry.

Table: Sea Cucumbers Identification


ThumbnailsHabitat
Amberfish beche de mer Sea CucumbersAmberfish Habitat: Reef slopes, outer lagoon and near passes, on hard bottoms, large rubble and sand patches. Depth range : 10–30 m, Length commonly to : 55 cm,
Black Teatfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersBlack Teatfish Habitat: Reef flats, slopes and shallow seagrass beds. Depth range : 0–20 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 37 cm,
Blackspotted Sea Cucumber beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersBlackspotted Sea Cucumber Habitat: Reef slopes, close to the coast. Abundant on bottoms of mixed corals and calcareous red algae. Depth range : 0–25 m, but mostly in 0–10 m, Length commonly to : 35 cm,
Brown sandfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersBrown sandfish Habitat: Coastal lagoons and inner reef flats, often burrowed in sandy-muddy bottoms. Depth range : 0–20 m, but mostly in 0–10 m, Length commonly to : 32 cm,
Brownspotted sandfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersBrownspotted sandfish Habitat: Coastal lagoons and inner reef flats, often burrowed in sandy-muddy bottoms. Depth range : 0–3 m, Length commonly to : 18 cm,
Curryfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersCurryfish Habitat: Seagrass beds, rubble and sandy-muddy bottoms. Depth range : 0–25 m, Length commonly to : 35 cm
Deep-water Redfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersDeep-water Redfish Habitat: Reef flats of fringing and lagoon-islet reefs, seagrass beds, rubble reef flats and compact flats. Depth range : 0–12 m, Length commonly to : 20 cm
Elephant trunkfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersElephant trunkfish Habitat: Reef slopes and shallow seagrass beds. Depth range : 0–25 m, Length commonly to : 36 cm
Golden sandfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersGolden sandfish Habitat: Inner reef flats of coastal lagoons; burrows in mud and sandy-muddy bottoms. Generally deeper than sandfish. Depth range : 0–30 m, Length commonly to : 30 cm
Greenfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersGreenfish Habitat: Reef flats and upper slopes, mostly on hard substrates. Depth range : 0–15 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 18 cm
Hairy blackfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersHairy blackfish Habitat: Found in high densities in inshore shallow waters and at lower densities in deeper more oceanic-influenced waters. Mostly a nocturnal species. Depth range : 0–15 m, Length commonly to : 25 cm
Leopardfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersLeopardfish Habitat: Barrier reef flats and slopes, or outer lagoons on white sand. Depth range : 0–30 m, but mostly in 0–10 m, Length commonly to : 36 cm
Lollyfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersLollyfish Habitat: Found in high densities in inshore shallow waters and at lower densities in deeper oceanic-influenced waters. Average size of inshore specimens less than those of outer reef specimens (sometimes named “reef lolly”) Depth range : 0–20 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 20 cm (inshore), 30 cm (outer reefs)
Pinkfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersPinkfish Habitat: Inner reef flats of fringing and lagoon-islets reefs, and shallow coastal lagoons, sandymuddy grounds with rubble or coral patches. Depth range : 0–30 m, but mostly in 0–10 m, Length commonly to : 20 cm
Prickly redfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersPrickly redfish Habitat: Reef slopes and near passes, on hard bottoms with large rubble and coral patches. Depth range : 0–25 m, Length commonly to : 45 cm
Sandfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersSandfish Habitat: Inner reef flats of fringing reefs, lagoon-islet reefs, coastal areas affected by sediments, and near mangroves. Depth range : 0–10 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 22 cm
Selenka's sea cucumber beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersSelenka’s sea cucumber Habitat: Rubble or hidden in reef flats; mostly a nocturnal species. Depth range : 0–15 m, Length commonly to : 20 cm
Snakefish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersSnakefish Habitat: Inner and outer reef flats and back reefs or shallow coastal lagoons. Abundant on sandymuddy bottoms with rubble or coral patches and in seagrass beds. Depth range : 0–15 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 40 cm
Stonefish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersStonefish Habitat: Hard substrates. Nocturnal species. In daytime, found under large stones, in gaps in reef slopes or in sheltered areas. Depth range : 0–20 m, but mostly in 0–10 m, Length commonly to : 25 cm
Surf redfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersSurf redfish Habitat: Outer reef flats and fringing reefs, mostly in the surf zone. Depth range : 0–20 m, but mostly in 0–5 m, Length commonly to : 20 cm
White teatfish beche-de-mer Sea CucumbersWhite teatfish Habitat: Oceanic influenced lagoons and passes. Depth range : 1–40 m, but mostly in 20+ m, Length commonly to : 42 cm
Table: Sea Cucumbers Identification

Video: Identification of Live Sea Cucumbers


References

  • [Alex Videoboy]. (2020, January 1). Sea Cucumber On A Sandy Bottom Among A Coral Reef Bohadschia Argus Underwater On The Ocean Floor [Video]. Storyblocks. Link
  • National Geographic (2020, January 1). Sea Cucumbers. National Geographic. Retrieved October 18, 2023, from Link
  • [Pacific Community]. (2022, May 4). Sea cucumbers and beche-de-mer in the Pacific Islands: Identifying live sea cucumbers [Video]. Youtube. Link
  • SPC (2004). Pacific Island sea cucumber and beche de mer identification cards (1st ed., pp. 1-52). Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Link
  • WhitcombeRD (2019). A large Sea Cucumber feeding on the sand of a tropical coral reef [Photograph]. Istockphoto. Link
 
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