Actinopyga echinites 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Echinodermata Holothuroidea Aspidochirotida Holothuriidae

Scientific Name: Actinopyga echinites
Species Authority: (Jaeger, 1833)
Common Name(s):
English Brownfish, Deep Water Redfish
Actinopyga plebeja (Selenka, 1867)
Muelleria echinites Jaeger, 1833
Muelleria plebeja Selenka, 1867

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-05-18
Assessor(s): Conand, C., Purcell, S. & Gamboa, R.
Reviewer(s): Polidoro, B., Harwell, H., Carpenter, K.E. & Knapp, L.

This species is commercially exploited throughout its range, and is a medium value species that is relatively easy to collect (e.g. it is found in high abundance and on shallow seagrass beds and rubble reef flats). 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.  It is also considered overexploited in at least 40% of its range although exact declines are difficult to estimate. The status of populations in East Africa are unknown, but it is known to be collected in this region. Declines and over-exploitation have occurred primarily since the 1960s, and although generation length is not known, echinoderms are not considered to go through senescence and therefore may be greater than several decades. At present, global declines are therefore estimated to be between 30-40% based on estimates of depletion and over-exploitation across its range. This species 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 continue to be fished out, effort for this species will probably increase even further.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species can be found throughout the Western Central Pacific (Kinch et al. 2008), Asia (Choo 2008) and Africa and Indian Ocean regions (Conand 2008).
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Colombia; Comoros; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Guam; India; Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Réunion; Samoa; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; 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 – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):30
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species has been heavily depleted in South East Asia and parts of the South Pacific (India, Madagascar, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia), representing approximately 50% of the range. The status of the populations in East Africa and Red Sea are unknown but are assumed to be overexploited (40% of its range), such as in the Seychelles. Populations of this species in Australia (10% of range) are collected but are mostly unknown. Depletion refers to commercially non-viable, and estimated to represent an approximately 60-90% loss or greater over the past 50 years (since the 1960s). Shallow water distributions of this species are more heavily impacted. In areas where it is considered overexploited, population levels are difficult to estimate due to variation in regional and local fishing effort. However, harvests have significantly declined over the past 30-50 years, and based on traditional fisheries definitions, overexploited is estimated to be 30% above maximum sustainable yield.

In La Reunion it is found at maximum densities of 3 individuals/m2 (Conand 2008). This species also appears in the Seychelles catch data. CPUE data is available for New Caledonia with 118 individuals/diver/hour, Palau with 68 individuals/diver/hour and Central Papua New Guinea with 110 individuals/diver/hour. A joint CPUE for Actinopyga miliaris and A. echinites in Palau showed 68.2 sea cucumbers/diver/hour (Kinch et al. 2008). In Bolinao, Philippines there were 1.6 to 5 individuals per hectare in 2009 (Menez in press).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found along outer reef flats (Skewes et al. 2004), in the littoral zone, and in estuaries and lagoons. This species dwells in moderately shallow waters, mostly on reef flats of fringing and lagoon-islet reefs. It can be abundant in seagrass beds, on rubble flats, and compact flats where populations can reach high densities (up to 1/m) (Conand 1998).

This species is found between 0-30 m depth, but is generally found in shallower waters to 12 m. It inhabits reef flats of fringing and lagoon-islets reefs, rubble reefs and compact flats (Kinch et al. 2008, Choo 2008, and Conand 2008), and lives exposed in the sea floor (Conand 2008). In Okinawa (Japan), the juveniles of this species preferred plate-like substrate types such as eroded limestone or dead coral plates (Wiedemeyer 1994).

This species reproduces sexually, usually during the warm season. It is a species of high potential fecundity and early sexual maturity.

In New Caledonia, this species reaches its peak spawning period between January and February, whilst it is more active in December in Papua New Guinea (Kinch et al. 2008) and weight at first maturity is 85 g (Conand 1982). In Southern Taiwan, it spawns between June and July (Chao et al. 1995). It can live more than 12 years (Kinch et al. 2008). In La Reunion, it presents an annual cycle with spawning between January and February and April and May (Muthiga et al. 2010).

The generation length of Actinopyga echinites is unknown. 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, undisturbed environment.


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Actinopyga echinites is of high commercial value and is harvested throughout its range.

This species is consumed either as bêche-de-mer or their intestine and/or gonads are consumed as delicacies or as the protein in traditional diets in 13 countries or territories in the Western Central Pacific (Kinch et al. 2008). It is considered of high commercial importance in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines (Choo 2008) and of medium commercial importance in Africa and the Indian Ocean region. In Palau, it is part of a subsistence fishery and in Papua New Guinea it is considered of commercial importance by the National Fisheries Authority (Kinch et al. 2008). In New Caledonia, it is caught in moderate quantities (Kinch et al. 2008). In Fiji, it is fairly important in fishery statistics (Kinch et al. 2008), and of commercial importance in Torres Strait, Western Central Australia and Queensland (Australia). In Viet Nam, the species became of higher commercial value after the most important commercial species (Holothuria scabra) was depleted (Choo 2008). It is considered heavily fished in certain countries in Asia such as Indonesia (Choo 2008).

This species is part of an artisanal fishery in its whole distribution range where it is collected using Hookah gear and lead bombs. It is currently fished in Palau, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federal States of Micronesia, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Salomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Torres Straits, Great Barrier Reef, Northern Territoriy and Western Austrlia (Kinch et al. 2008). It is also heavily fished in Sri Lanka.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Commercial harvest of this species is reason for concern in some of its range. Conand (2004) identified that this species was under population stress as a result of fisheries to satisfy the international trade. Later, Bruckner (2005) categorized this species as of concern in some countries of its range. Toral-Granda et al. (2008) includes this species as a species with significance in the global sea cucumber market.

Commercially it is of medium value. This species is targeted throughout its range, and fishing pressure has dramatically increased in the past 25 to 50 years since the 1960s, and is expected to continue, even as stocks are depleted. Although not one of the most important species (medium value) 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.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Papua New Guinea, regulations for the capture of this species include a minimum landing size, a fishing season, fishing permits, Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and gear restrictions (Toral-Granda 2007). In La Reunion, there is a fishing closure between December and January, and a minimum landing size of 50 g (Muthiga et al. 2010).

Although not species-specific protection, some countries of the Western Central Pacific, Asia, Africa and Indian Ocean regions have implemented area restrictions, bag limits, effort control, gear restriction, moratoriums, quotas, and size limits, as management and conservation measures for sea cucumber species, including this species (Kinch et al. 2008, Choo 2008, Conand 2008). 

Better and more quantitative data are needed to better estimate the impact of fishing on this species.

Classifications [top]

12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.5. Marine Intertidal - Salt Marshes (Emergent Grasses)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.9. Marine Neritic - Seagrass (Submerged)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.6. Inter-Reef Rubble Substrate
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.5. Inter-Reef Soft Substrate
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.4. Lagoon
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.3. Foreslope (Outer Reef Slope)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.2. Back Slope
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.1. Outer Reef Channel

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Causing/Could cause fluctuations ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Causing/Could cause fluctuations ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends

♦  Food - human
 International : ✓ 

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Be, J.J. 2002. Approche bio-écologique et analyse socio-économique de l'exploitation des holothuries Aspidochirotes (espèces commerciales) dans les trois parcs marins de la presqu'île de Masoala (nord-est de Madagascar). DEA, IH.SM, Université de Toliara, Madagascar.

Bruckner, A.W. 2005. The recent status of sea cucumber fisheries in the continental United States of America. SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin 22: 39-46.

Chao, S. M., Chen, C.P, Alexander, P.S. 1995. Reproductive cycles of tropical sea cucumbers (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in southern Taiwan. Marine Biology 122(289-295).

Choo, P.S. 2008. Population status, fisheries and trade of sea cucumbers in Asia. In: M.V. Toral-Granda, A. Lovatelli, M. Vasconcellos. (ed.), Sea cucumbers. A global review on fisheries and trade.. FAO, Rome.

Clark, A.M. and Rowe, F.W.E. 1971. Monograph of shallow-water Indo-west Pacific Echinoderms. Trustees of the British Museum of Natural History, London.

Conand, C. 1982. Reproductive cycle and biometric relations in a population of Actinopyga echinites (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) from the lagoon of New Caledonia, western tropical Pacific. In: J. M Lawrence (ed.), International Echinoderms Conference. Tampa Bay, Florida.

Conand, C. 1999. Manuel de qualité des holothuries commerciales du Sud-Ouest de l'Océan Indien. PRE/COI.

Conand, C. 2004. Present status of world sea cucumber resources and utlilisation: an international overview. In: A. Lovatelli et al. (ed.), Advances in sea cucumber aquaculture and management.. FAO, Rome.

Conand, C. 2008. Population status, fisheries and trade of sea cucumbers in Africa and the Indian Ocean. In: M.V. Toral-Granada, A. Lovatelli, M. Vasconcellos. (ed.), Sea cucumbers. A global review on fisheries and trade.. FAO, Rome.

Conand, C. and Mangion, P. 2002. Sea cucumbers on La Reunion Island fringing reefs: Diversity, distribution, abundance and structure of the populations. SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin 17(17): 27-33.

Conand, C.P. 1998. Holothurians (sea cucumbers, Class Holothuroidea). In: K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds), FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes, pp. 1157-1190. Rome.

Hartati, S.T., Wahyuni, I.S. and Badri, U.N. 2005. Jenis-Jenis Teripang Di Indonesia: Sea Cucumber species of Indonesia. Research Institute for Marine Fisheries.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Kinch, J., Purcell, S., Uthicke, S. and Friedman, K. 2008. Population status, fisheries and trade of sea cucumbers in the Western Central Pacific. In: V. Toral-Granda and A. Lovatelli and M. Vasconcellos. (eds), Sea cucumbers. A global review of fisheries and trade. Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 516, pp. 7-55. FAO, Rome.

Muthiga, N., Ochiewo, J., Kawaka, J. 2010. Strengthening capacity to sustainably manage sea cucumber fisheries in the western Indian Ocean. SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin 30: 3-9.

Skewes, T., Haywood, M., Pitchern, R. and Willan, R . 2004. Holothurians. National Oceans Office, Hobart, Australia.

Toral-Granda, M.W., Lovatelli, A., Vasconcellos, M. (eds). 2008. Sea cucumbers. A global review of fisheries and trade. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 516.. FAO, Rome.

Toral-Granda, V.M. 2006. Fact sheets and identification guide for commercial Sea cucumber species.

Toral-Granda, V.M. 2007. The Biological and Trade Status of Sea Cucumbers in the families Holothuriidae and Stichopodidae. Convention on International Trade in Endangerd Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: 33. The Hague, Netherlands.

Wiedmeyer, W. L. 1994. Biology if small juveniles of the tropical holothurian Actinopyga echinites: growth, mortality and habitat. Marine Biology 120: 81-93.

World Database of Protected Areas. 2010. Marine Protected Areas. Available at: (Accessed: 1 December).

Citation: Conand, C., Purcell, S. & Gamboa, R. 2013. Actinopyga echinites. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T180518A1642310. . Downloaded on 24 August 2017.
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