Sea cucumbers are a high-value commercial food, and the demand for local seafood is rising. But so are extreme climatic events that can rapidly change water conditions, especially in coastal environments that include the traditional Hawaiian fishponds where sea cucumbers are grown and harvested.
With a new, biennial Sea Grant in sustainable aquaculture, researchers in the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences hope to establish baseline information required for sea cucumber culture under shifting water temperatures and salinities. The eventual goal of their project is to optimize culture conditions and production strategies for native Hawaiian sea cucumbers, as well as improve fishpond ecosystems by enhancing nutrient cycling.
“For several years, revitalization and restoration of traditional Hawaiian fishponds, or loko ī‘a, have been on-going,” says principal investigator Andre Seale. “We are partnering with fishpond practitioners and sea cucumber producers, and offering graduate student training, in our attempt to characterize and test the tolerance of these species.”
The challenge of production, coupled with revitalization of loko ī‘a, is compounded by the sea cucumber’s fragile environment, Andre explains. This project will integrate the ongoing line of research on environmental physiology with the development of best rearing strategies for native Hawaiian sea cucumbers of commercial value and application in loko ī‘a settings.
Read more about “Identifying the physiological responses to extreme environmental changes in native Hawaiian sea cucumbers found in traditional fishponds.”
Photo: one of the target species of sea cucumber (Actinopyga varians) to be studied.