White Teatfish (Sea Cucumber) (2020)

Holothuria fuscogilva

  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Ian Butler (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Ian Butler (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science)
  • Mark Grubert (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory)

Date Published: June 2021

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White Teatfish is a species of sea cucumber found in northern Australia. It is assessed as sustainable on QLD's east coast and in the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery. Stocks in the NT and the Commonwealth Coral Sea Fishery are undefined.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Torres Strait Beche-de-mer Fishery Sustainable


Commonwealth Coral Sea Fishery Undefined

Catch, effort

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Stock Structure

White Teatfish is broadly distributed throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific [Conand 1990]. There are likely to be multiple populations in all northern Australian states and territories. However, there is very little information on the distribution, abundance and stock structure of White Teatfish in northern Australia. Current taxonomic records indicate that its distribution extends from Ningaloo in Western Australia to Brisbane, Queensland [ALA 2018]. The known depth range of this species is 0–40 m, but most animals are caught between 15 m and 30 m [Conand et al. 2013].

Here, assessment of stock status is reported at the management unit level—Torres Strait Beche-de-mer Fishery, Coral Sea Fishery (Commonwealth), Trepang Fishery (Northern Territory) and East Coast Sea Cucumber Fishery (Queensland).

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Stock Status

Coral Sea Fishery

There are no reliable indicators of current White Teatfish biomass for the Coral Sea Fishery, nor are there any reliable indicators of the impact of recent and historical catches on the successful recruitment of the stock. There is therefore insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock. Annual catch of White Teatfish in the Coral Sea Fishery has averaged <2 tonnes (t) over the last decade.  

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Coral Sea Fishery (Commonwealth) management unit is classified as an undefined stock.

Torres Strait Beche-de-mer Fishery

The Torres Strait White Teatfish stock was surveyed in 2009 [Skewes et al. 2010] and in 2019–20 [Murphy et al. 2020]. The results of the 2019–20 survey indicated that White Teatfish density is currently similar to or greater than densities measured in 1995, 2002 and 2005 [Murphy et al. 2020; Butler and Steven 2020]. Catches of the stock over the last decade have mostly been below the TAC (15 t), including in 2018 (1.4 t) and 2019 (1.6 t).  

The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired, and that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired. On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Torres Strait Beche-de-mer Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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White Teatfish (Sea Cucumber) biology [Purcell et al. 2012]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
White Teatfish (Sea Cucumber) 12+ years, 570 mm TL 320 mm TL, 4 years
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of White Teatfish. Due to confidentiality constraints, catches from the Northern Territory are not shown.

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Fishing methods
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Vessel restrictions
Possession limit
Commercial 1.56t
Indigenous Unknown

Northern Territory – Indigenous (Management methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of White Teatfish - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) 2018, Holothuria (Microthele) fuscogilva Cherbonnier, 1980.
  2. Butler, I, and Steven, AH, 2020, Torres Strait Beche-de-Mer and Trochus fisheries. In Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Woodhams, J and Curtotti, R (Eds) Fishery status reports 2020, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.
  3. Conand, C 1990, The fishery resources of Pacific island countries. Part 2. Holothurians, FAO, Rome.
  4. Conand, C, Purcell, S and Gamboa, R 2013, Holothuria fuscogilva. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T200715A2681354. Downloaded on 27 July 2018.
  5. Murphy, NE, Plagányi, EE, Edgar, S, Salee, K, Skewes, TD (2020) Stock survey of sea cucumbers in East Torres Strait. Draft final report. December 2020. CSIRO, Australia. 120 pp.
  6. Purcell, S, Samyn, Y and Conand, C 2012, Commercially important sea cucumbers of the world, FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 6, Rome, 150 pp.
  7. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  8. Roelofs, A, Woodhams, J and Grubert, M, 2018, White Teatfish (Sea cucumber) Holothuria fuscgilva, in Carolyn Stewardson, James Andrews, Crispian Ashby, Malcolm Haddon, Klaas Hartmann, Patrick Hone, Peter Horvat, Stephen Mayfield, Anthony Roelofs, Keith Sainsbury, Thor Saunders, John Stewart, Simon Nicol and Brent Wise (eds) 2018, Status of Australian fish stocks reports 2018, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  9. Skewes, T, Plaganyi, E, Murphy, N, Pascual, R and Fischer, M 2014, Evaluating rotational harvest strategies for sea cucumber fisheries, CSIRO, Brisbane.
  10. Skewes, TD, Murphy, NE, McLeod, I, Dovers, E, Buridge, C and Rochester, W, 2010, Torres Strait Hand Collectables, 2009 survey: Sea cucumber. CSIRO, Cleveland. 70pp.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.