November 6, 1998
From: Mick Frederic
Hope you can provide me with some background information concerning sea cucumbers. I work and live in Mauritius in one of the biggest resorts on the island.
The resort has employed people to collect and displace sea cucumbers from close to the beach to further out.The resort considers the sea cucumbers as a nuisance but are still aware that they certainly have a role to play in the balance of things. I have not been able to find any information so far concerning the sea cucumbers.
The type being moved is brown in color with a lighter shade underneath, they seem to bury themselves in the sand and most of them "surface" some time in the afternoon- there are large numbers of individuals.
They produce white defensive mucus when handled but otherwise are totally harmless creatures. This type of sea cucumbers is only found in shallow water.
firstname.lastname@example.orgFrederic, M., 1998 (Nov 6) sea cucumber. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/289
As you may have realised from the message below yours on this page, Sea-cucumbers, although "sluggy" are not really my area of expertise. However I lived in Tanzania for some years and are familiar with the populations of sea cucumbers which are sometimes found on the wide intertidal sandflats on sheltered shores of the western Indian Ocean. I had a number of attempts to identify it without great success but I am pretty sure it was a species of Holothuria, may be even Holothuria scabra.
One thing I would be wary of is trying to "pretty up" the environment by interfering with nature. The marine station I worked at was surrounded by tourist resort hotels and every new manager tried to do his bit to better nature .. and like King Canute they all failed, and usually caused damage.
Sea Cucumbers act much like earthworms, recycling the upper layers of sand and seemed to be particularly important in those intertidal sandflats. In years when their populations were low (natural fluctuations, people pressure etc) areas of the sandflats became deoxygenated just below the upper couple of millimeters and often a web of filamentous bluegreen algae covered the surface often with many small mussels embedded in it. I didn't mind it because it provided a habitat for tiny nudibranchs but it was visually and to walk over, a fairly unpleasant experience, especially to tourists walking out for a swim or a lie in the sun.
My advice would be to leave the sea cucumbers where they are..who other than the manager really cares or is offended by them?
If you would like to chat with a friend in Mauritius who could give you some background views and ideas on conservation etc, get in touch with Owen Griffiths Olgmas@bow.intnet.mu . He farms crocodiles, and is researching endemic landsnails in Mauritius and Madagascar, amongst other things. Although not a student of marine creatures he, as a landsnail expert, is well aware of how fragile most ecosystems can be.
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