Actinopyga miliaris 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Echinodermata Holothuroidea Aspidochirotida Holothuriidae

Scientific Name: Actinopyga miliaris
Species Authority: (Quoy & Gaimard, 1833)
Common Name(s):
English Blackfish, Harry Blackfish
Holothuria miliaris Quoy&Gaimard,1833
Muelleria miliaris (Quoy & Gaimard)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-05-15
Assessor(s): Conand, C., Purcell, S. & Gamboa, R.
Reviewer(s): Harwell, H., Polidoro, B. & Carpenter, K.E.

Actinopyga miliaris is commercially exploited throughout its range, and is a medium value species that is relatively easy to collect (e.g. found in higher abundance and on shallow seagrass beds). Its biology is poorly known.. Based on a number of quantitative and qualitative studies, populations are estimated to be depleted and have declined by more than 60-90% in at least 50% of its range since the 1960s, and is considered overexploited in at least 40% of it range although exact declines are difficult to estimate. The status of populations in East Africa are unknown, but it is known to be collected. Declines and overexploitation have occurred primarily since the 1960s, and although generation length is not known, echinoderms are not considered to go through senescence and therefore one generation length is likely greater than several decades. At present, global declines are therefore estimated to be between 30%-40% based on estimates of depletion and overexploitation across its range. A. miliaris is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

However, better and more quantitative data are needed to better estimate the impact of fishing on this species. If other shallow water species are continued to be fished out, effort for this species will likely increase even further.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Actinopyga miliaris is found in the Indo Pacific from east Africa and the Red Sea to India, eastward to northern Australia, north to southern Japan and China, eastward to Fiji, Tuvalu and Tonga, excluding the Persian Gulf and Hawaii. This species can be found throughout the Western Central Pacific between 0-12 m (Kinch et al. 2008a), in Asia (Choo 2008) and in the Africa and Indian Ocean region up to 20 m (Conand 2008).
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Comoros; Cook Islands; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; French Polynesia; Guam; India; Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Réunion; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):20
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Actinopyga miliaris is a relatively common species. However, this species has been heavily depleted over the past 50 years in South East Asia and parts of the South Pacific (India, Viet Nam, Madagascar, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia), which accounts for approximately 50% of its range. The status of the populations in East Africa are unknown but are assumed to be overexploited (40% of its range). Populations in Australia (10% of range) are mostly unknown, and are not yet targeted. Depletion refers to commercially unviable, and is estimated to represent an approximately 60-90% loss or greater over the past 50 years (since the 1960s). Shallow waters are more heavily impacted. In areas where it is considered overexploited, populations are difficult to estimate based on variation in regional and local fishing effort, but harvests have declined and based on traditional fisheries definitions, overexploited is estimated to be 30% above maximum sustainable yield. Populations of Actinopyga mauritiana, A. miliaris and Holothuria scabra appear low and will need to be managed prudently to safeguard stocks from dwindling to levels where they cannot easily be repopulated naturally (Purcell et al. 2009).

Regional and Country Information:

In Vanuatu, there was a relatively high abundance of this species (785 ind./ha) in 1987; however, recent surveys found that densities were low at the island of Efate compared with results from Malekula (Kinch et al. 2008a). In Fiji, Actinopyga miliaris was one of the most important commercial sea cucumbers and occurred at high densities in certain sites; however surveys a decade later found that A. miliaris had a more restricted distribution and lower densities (Kinch et al. 2008).

This species is one of the most common species measured in landings in New Caledonia (Purcell et al. 2009). In 1981, the average density of this species was 600 individuals per hectare (Conand 1989), while in 2006-2007 in preferred habitat the average density was 87 individuals per hectares (Purcell et al. 2009). In New Caledonia, total exports of over 125 t in 1990 and 1991 for all sea cucumber species declined to less than 81 t/yr from 1992 to 1994 (Actinopyga miliaris harvest ~ 75% of exports; Holothuria scabra harvest ~ 25% of exports). Exports continued to decline from 79.8 t in 1994 to 39.1 t in 1998 (Bruckner et al. 2003).

In Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, CPUE was <0.1 sea cucumbers/diver/hour. Whilst a joint CPUE for Actinopyga miliaris and A. echinites in Palau showed 68.2 sea cucumbers.diver/hour (Kinch et al. 2008).

In India, Actinopyga miliaris, was collected for the first time in 1992 and, within 2 months, more than 0.6 million specimens were caught (James 2004).  In India, Holothuria scabra, H. spinifera and Bohadschia marmorata have been collected over the last 1,000 years. Fishermen began collecting other species in 1990, in response to high export value and population declines. A. echinites and A. miliaris populations were overexploited in some areas as early as 2 years later (Bruckner et al. 2003). In the Gulf of Manner and Pal Bay, India CPUE and size of specimens has dramatically declined (Bruckner et al. 2003).

In Seychelles, it is among the most abundant species, and it is currently commercially exploited (Aumeeruddy and Conand 2008).

Kalaeb et al. (2008) used transect data to calculate a population density of 157.5 individuals of this species per hectare in near shore waters of Eritrea, east Africa. In Tanzania, there was an increase of bêche-de-mer exports, including this species, from <200 tonnes in 1980s to 617 tonnes in 1992. However, it started to decline afterward. In 1997 Tanzania was exporting 8 tonnes and exporters have stopped due to decline of profit (Conand 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

In the Western Central Pacific Region, Actinopyga miliaris prefers reef flats of fringing reefs and lagoon-islet reefs, rubble reefs and compact flats between 0-12 m (Kinch et al. 2008a). In the Indian Ocean region, it prefers reef flats and seagrass over coral substrate up to 20 m and it does not bury (Conand 2008). In New Caledonia, A. miliaris reproduces twice a year, with one spawning event in May and a second in November and December (Kinch et al. 2008). In China, it prefers areas affected by a strong wave action (Li 2004).

In the Indian Ocean, A. miliaris is common in shallow waters. It is generally found on reef flats of fringing and lagoon-islet reefs between live or dead coral heads, and in sea grass beds, but it is rarely if ever found on barrier reefs. It is commonly distributed on shallow sub-littoral areas with terrigenous influence and coastal reef at a depth range from 0 to 10 m (Rasolofonirina pers comm. 2009).

Conand (2008) states that despite high abundance of this species, there is very little biological information.

Generation length is unknown for this species. Body size is not a good indicator of age or longevity. There is some indication, however, that many echinoderms do not go through senescence, but simply regenerate. Therefore generation length cannot be estimated, but is assumed to be greater than several decades in a natural, un-disturbed environment.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Actinopyga miliaris is commercially harvested throughout its distribution.

In many countries of the Western Central Pacific region, A. miliaris is consumed as bêche-de-mer or their intestines and/or gonads are consumed as delicacies or as the protein component in traditional diets. It is used as a subsistence food in times of hardship in Palau (Kinch et al. 2008). In the Western Central Pacific Region, A. miliaris is harvested in 17 countries and island nations: Palau, CNMI, FSM, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Coral Sea, Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef (Australia) (Kinch et al. 2008).

In the Solomon Islands, PNG and New Caledonia, A. miliaris is part of a multi-species fishery. In the latter, it is among the dominant species in the catch. In Fiji, A. miliaris was among the most important commercial species before 1988 where it comprised about 95% of all exports. Once A. miliaris was overexploited, it was replaced by other species, such as Stichopus chloronotus, Actinopyga mauritiana, Holothuria fuscogilva, H. whitmaei, H. scabra, Stichopus herrmanni (Kinch et al. 2008).

In Asia, A. miliaris is a heavily fished species in certain countries of its distribution range like in China, Indonesia and Philippines (Choo 2008). This species is actively fished in Kenya and contributes 17% of total sea cucumber catches (Conand 2008).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Actinopyga miliaris is of small to medium size, with medium commercial value. It is easily collected, and often taken by gleaning. Excessive commercial harvest is a reason for concern in some of its range (Toral-Granda 2006).

Although not one of the most important species (lower medium value species) for fishery purposes, it can be expected that this species may become more popular after the depletion or reduction of other species of higher commercial importance and value. This is as seen in India after the decline of Holothuria scabra and Actinpyga echinites (Conand 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Sea cucumber collection is regulated in some areas, and has been banned elsewhere, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Bruckner et al. 2003). In India, as of 2002 there is a ban on collection, processing and export of all sea cucumbers (Conand 2008). In Fiji, harvest is restricted to Fijian natives, use of scuba gear is forbidden, and catch is restricted by a minimum legal dry length of 7.62 cm for all sea cucumber species (Bruckner et al. 2003).

Since late 2007, there has been a fishery moratorium in Yap for Actinopyga miliaris (Kinch et al. 2008). In PNG, there is a live size limit for A. miliaris of 15 cm TL, and 10 cm TL for dry size; in New Caledonia it is 25 cm TL live and 12 cm TL dry; in Torres Strait (Australia) it is 22 cm TL live size (Kinch et al. 2008). The distribution of A. miliaris also overlaps with several Marine Protected Areas throughout its distribution. 

With the inclusion of Isostichopus fuscus in CITES Appendix III, a debate started whether the conservation of this group may be addressed with their inclusion in one of the CITES appendices (Toral-Granda 2007).

Citation: Conand, C., Purcell, S. & Gamboa, R. 2013. Actinopyga miliaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T180265A1607822. . Downloaded on 30 July 2016.
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