THE World Wide Pacific Fund for Nature in the South Pacific recently completed a two week research expedition on sea cucumbers in waters around Mali in Macuata.
Team leader Alfred Ralifo said the survey concentrated on whether sea cucumber populations were thriving or whether they were dwindling because of over-harvesting.
Mr Ralifo said the data gathered on the 'deep sea' treasures were being analysed and would influence the formation of a sea cucumber fisheries management plan for the district.
He added that the fresh data would then be contrasted with that collected in 2004 by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to determine the vitality of sea cucumber populations over a period of time.
"Thanks to advances in technology, the WWF survey was guided by the Global Positioning System position of the Secretariat Pacific Community survey points," he said.
"Sea cucumbers are commercially known as bÃªche-de-mer, also referred to as reef filters, and have been a major source of livelihood in Pacific Island countries for generations.
"In Mali District, three of the four villages (Nakawaga, Vesi and Ligaulevu), stricken with land unavailability, are heavily reliant on marine resources to sustain and meet, food and income needs."
Mr Ralifo said these included children's education expenses, medical and daily household needs.
"Anecdotal evidence includes the testimonials of some divers in local media stating they make as much as $250 from a night of diving.
"For Mali, a management plan will protect future income and food security contributing to poverty alleviation.
"We need to see how much villagers have been extracting from the reef and should they continue at the current rate of extraction would there be a need to apply some management strategy."