Overexploitation of fisheries is a challenge to both marine conservation and human welfare. The trade of sea cucumbers is a multi-billion-dollar market, spanning over 70 countries. Global concern over unsustainable sea cucumber trade led to the inclusion of three species in CITES Appendix II, two of which are found in Madagascar (Holothuria fuscogilva and Holothuria nobilis). We used 792 structured interviews (2015–2020) to study the intensity of wild sea cucumber collection and exportation in rural northeastern Madagascar, where 30% of all (terrestrial and aquatic) native species are threatened with extinction. Wild sea cucumber collection was common and increased tenfold during the study; one in five coastal households caught and sold wild sea cucumbers. Furthermore, trade relied on threatened species; half of collected sea cucumbers are threatened, including CITES II-restricted H. nobilis (Endangered) and H. fuscogilva (Vulnerable). While such collection threatens conservation, it improved the welfare of rural collectors. Sea cucumber collectors were significantly wealthier and more food secure than other community members. Given both the high collection of threatened and regulated species and high regional food insecurity (58% of households), the current regulation of threatened species alone is not reducing levels of unsustainable catch.
- marine conservation
- wildlife trade