Young sea cucumbers are shown in this file photo shared by the USAID Protect Wildlife Project.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is hoping that its supported Protect Wildlife sea cucumber farming project in the coast of Narra will chart the next steps in pursuing its potentials as a high-value marine product.

Started in 2017, the project in Caguisan and Rasa Island with the Western Philippines University (WPU) seeks to promote sandfish (Holothuria scabra)—a variety of sea cucumber—as a profitable source of livelihood for communities.

Lawrence San Diego, communications manager of the USAID Protect Wildlife Project, said Friday that the sea cucumber ranching project will be visited on February 16-17 to monitor the progress in their size development.

Sea cucumber pens in the coast of Narra. (Photo courtesy of USAID Protect Wildlife Project)

“Basically, the aim of the research is to determine if the coastal area of Narra can be a good site for raising sea cucumbers. Research sites are near Caguisan and near Rasa Island, which is also a protected area that Protect Wildlife is supporting,” he said.

He said it also hopes to observe the growth and survival of a young sandfish in an aquaculture facility using broodstock collected from mainland Palawan.

The young sandfish that were released in February 2018 inside floating hapa nets for two months before they were transferred to nursery sea pens and released in the ranching sites.

“Our hope is with the results of the research, the university, local government unit (LGU), and other partners can chart the next steps to pursue sustainable sea cucumber farming. High-value product din kasi ang sea cucumber. And also, conservation-wise, raising sea cucumbers also ensures that stocks of the species will not be depleted,” San Diego added.

He said with the support for the sea cucumber ranching research, Protect Wildlife is emphasizing to the LGUs and partners “the importance of harnessing local science, especially from local experts and universities.”

Its success, he pointed out, will assist local partners in making a sustainable and science-based path to developing a local industry for sandfish, which can fetch good prices in Asian markets.

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