Beche-de-mer, the product that brought the maritime industries to Torres Strait in the 1860s, was gathered in shallow water using small open sailing craft, usually referred to as whaleboats.
The marine biologist Charles Yonge, who visited Torres Strait in 1929, reported that the people of Mer, mostly women, used dinghies on home and close-by Outer Barrier reefs to gather beche-de-mer and trochus, (71) and a well informed if somewhat patronizing 1928 Australian Woman's Mirror article entitled, 'Women's work in Torres Straits', revealed that, along with handcrafts and housewifely occupations, Torres Strait Islander women cleaned trochus shell, tended beche-de-mer smoke houses, and 'of late years the girls and younger women actually help their fathers and husbands in the collection of beche-de-mer and trochus on the "home" reefs, and have proved themselves very clever divers'.
This phase was short-lived, if only because beche-de-mer are broadcast breeders highly vulnerable to over-exploitation.
Douglas to 1897 Departmental Commission on Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Fisheries', QVP, vol.
28; 'Evidence of John Costin to Royal Commission into the Working of the Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Industries', QPP, vol.
Evidence for a marked decline of bechede-mer populations in the Suva and Beqa areas of Fiji, and apreliminary description of a method of identifying beche-de-mer individuals based on characteristic-body wrinkles.
Local examples of beche-de-mer overfishing: An initial summary and request for information.
Beche-de-mer fisheries have a long history, as the Chinese have sought sea cucumbers for a thousand years or more in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines (Conand, 1986, 1989a, 1990).
The world beche-de-mer market is largely controlled by Chinese traders, and historical data from 1917 to 1986 were reviewed by Conand (1986, 1989a, 1990).
Holothurian catches are often bought by processors who also export beche-de-mer.
Analyses of Hong Kong and Singapore imports from producer countries and subsequent re-export of beche-de-mer to consumer countries are important in understanding world trade.
The fishing industry has undergone something of a resurgence over the last 20 years, but nowadays it is based on prawns, crayfish, mackerel, trochus shell, live fish, and beche-de-mer