The money side of livelihoods: Economics of an unregulated small-scale Indonesian sea cucumber fishery in the Timor Sea

James Prescott, James Riwu, Andhika P. Prasetyo, N. Stacey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Fishers from several ethnic groups on islands in eastern Indonesia seasonally fish for sea cucumbers at Scott Reef in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone in the Timor Sea. Despite evidence suggesting that sea cucumbers are severely over-exploited fishers continue to voyage to the reef. How the traditional fishery operates under this condition and more broadly what economic drivers cause fishers to make the long and arduous voyage is vital to understanding this small-scale fishery and developing appropriate strategies for management. This study is the first to investigate these dynamic livelihood aspects using semi-structured interviews and fishers' voluntarily recorded data on their catches, costs of fishing and the sales of those catches and income received over a six year period. The study demonstrated that costs, borrowings, and revenues differed between crews, leading to widely varying profits. Nevertheless, every crew that recorded the sale of their catches made a profit. Rapidly appreciating prices for their sea cucumber harvest, predominantly comprising low value species, was critical to maintaining the fishery's profitability. The income earned by some crews and boat owners were far greater than those potentially available to them through other livelihood strategies such as agriculture, coastal fisheries or trade opportunities. This study also suggests the depletion of high value sea cucumber species is ongoing. This Indonesian sea cucumber fishery at Scott Reef illustrates the linkages between stock sustainability, fishers' livelihood outcomes, and the burgeoning Asian demand for sea cucumbers and the findings can inform the current management discourse on this small-scale transboundary fishery. © 2017.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-205
    Number of pages9
    JournalMarine Policy
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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