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

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

Toggle content


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.

Toggle content

Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Queensland East Coast Sea Cucumber Fishery Sustainable

Catch, Effort, Catch rate, MSE

Toggle content

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).

Toggle content

Stock Status

East Coast Sea Cucumber Fishery

White Teatfish in Queensland is only harvested commercially. Nominal catch rates for White Teatfish have stabilised after a minor peak in 2010–11 and are now close to the average catch rate over the past 10 years [Roelofs et al. 2018]. Decreases in reported harvest over the past 15 years (from 131 t in 2003–04 to 43 t in 2011–12) are due to reductions in the quota for White Teatfish and do not reflect biomass declines. These voluntary reductions allowed the fishery participants to increase the take of other species within the constraints of the overall total allowable catch limit for the fishery. The above evidence indicates the biomass of this management unit is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

White Teatfish are managed in Queensland under a rotational zoning scheme (RZS) and fishing pressure is further constrained under a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC). Catches have been at or just below the 53 t TACC since its introduction in 2011–12 [QFISH 2020]. Management strategy evaluation (MSE) of the RZS determined that the risk of the fishery depleting White Teatfish biomass to below 40 per cent of unfished biomass was very low under Queensland Sea Cucumber (East Coast) Fishery management arrangements [Skewes et al. 2014]. Spatial closures in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protect an estimated 30 per cent of the White Teatfish spawning biomass and commercial catch quotas are in place to restrict catches to sustainable levels. Recreational harvest of White Teatfish is not allowed in Queensland waters. The above evidence indicates 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 East Coast Sea Cucumber Fishery (Queensland) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

Toggle content


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
Toggle content


Distribution of reported commercial catch of White Teatfish. Due to confidentiality constraints, catches from the Northern Territory are not shown.

Toggle content


Fishing methods
Management methods
Method Queensland
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Marine park closures
Rotational closures
Size limit
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Vessel restrictions
Commercial 52.83t
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

Toggle content

Catch Chart

Commercial catch of White Teatfish - note confidential catch not shown
Toggle content


  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.