Used widely in Chinese medicine and cuisine, sea cucumbers are also a rich source of glucosamine and chondroitin which are used in a range of common food supplements.
As a result, natural stocks of sea cucumbers are now seriously depleted around the world but at Newcastle University, UK, a team led by Professor Selina Stead is investigating how we might be able to use sea cucumbers to develop a more sustainable way of farming in the sea.
Dr Matthew Slater, an expert in sea cucumbers and part of Professor Stead’s team, said the aim was to investigate the sea cucumber’s potential as a natural, organic cleaner on fish farms around the world — including the UK — as well as a source of food.
“We wanted to find a way to clean up waste produced by large-scale aquaculture so that farming activities in the sea have little or no impact on the ocean floor,” explained Dr Slater.
“By growing sea cucumbers on waste from fish farms we are not only farming a valuable food product and giving the wild sea cucumber populations a chance to recover, we are also developing solutions to fish farming impacts.”
The sea cucumber project is being unveiled as part of a marine conference being held at Newcastle University on February 4.