2009 Volume 9 Issue 2 Pages 1-12
The rapid expansion of the dried sea cucumber market since the late 1980s has created a serious conservation issue worldwide. In fact, since 2002 sustainable use versus protection of sea cucumbers has been hotly debated at CITES meetings. In order to better understand the issue, this paper first explores the historical development of "sea cucumber foodways" in Asia. Only a few spiky sea cucumbers, among the 40 commercially traded species, are currently highly appreciated by Chinese gourmets. The second part of the paper introduces case studies of communal resource management based on my fieldwork on Rishiri Island, northernmost Japan, where the most expensive sea cucumbers with sharpest spikes in the world are harvested. In particular, I have focussed on: how the Rishiri sea cucumber fishery began, how a quality branding was achieved, and how resources are managed. Competing with strong market pressures and poaching, the fishermen of Rishiri Island have developed self-managed communal rules resulting from the exchange of ideas and practices with other societies.