Bio-economic Evaluation of Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus japonicas) Cultured in Earthen Ponds  

Ankai Zhang1,2 , Gang Yu1 , Pimao Chen1,3 , Chuanxin Qin1,3
1. South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, P.R. China
2. Fishery Environment and Aquatic Products Quality Supervision & Testing Center (Guangzhou), Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China
3. Scientific Observing and Experimental Station of South China Sea Fishery Resources & Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Aquaculture, 2013, Vol. 3, No. 26   doi: 10.5376/ija.2013.03.0026
Received: 28 Aug., 2013    Accepted: 30 Sep., 2013    Published: 08 Oct., 2013
© 2013 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Zhang et al., 2013, Bio-economic evaluation of sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicas) cultured in earthen ponds, International Journal of Aquaculture, Vol.3, No.26 152-157 (doi: 10.5376/ija.2013.03.0026)


Sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicas) industry was developed rapidly in north China in recently years. In this article, the main research is the economic income of sea cucumber culture. Net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR) and discounted payback period were selected to evaluate the economic income of sea cucumber culture. The result shows that the income increased with the increasing pond size but the survival rate and income per unit decreased.

Sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicas); Net present value (NPV); Internal rate of return (IRR); Earthen pond

Sea cucumber, Apostichopus japonicas, has become an important species cultured in the northern part of China including Liaoning, Shandong and Hebei provinces, and has gradually expanded towards the southern part including Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan provinces (Chen, 2004). Recently, under the stimulation of large profits, capital investment has been continuously flowing into the sector and farming areas have sharply expanded. Sea cucumbers are deposit-feeders that ingest sediment with organic matter (Yingst, 1976; Yingst, 1982; Hudson et al., 2005; Uthicke and Karezc, 1999; Michio et al., 2003). The coastal zone bears most of the ecological consequences of aquaculture development (Primavera, 2006).There has been much emphasis on developing sustainable approaches for aquaculture, such as integrated culture and zero discharge aquaculture system. In comparison with the other species, sea cucumber is no extra-feed and better to environment. Kang et al (Kang et al., 2003) considered that abalone cocultured with sea cucumber could reduce the level of inorganic nitrogen in the water and consequently promoted the growth. Bivalves (Zhou et al., 2006), shrimp (Purcell et al., 2006), and green-lipped mussel (Slater and Carton, 2007) cocultured with sea cucumber were proved to be beneficial, too.

The commercialization of sea cucumber farming, which was stimulated by the outbreak of shrimp disease, has begun since 1990s. However, the methods and model of sea cucumber culture lacked diversity, relying mainly on extensive culture. Lower production but higher price limited the development of sea cucumber industry.
Many studies were conducted on sea cucumber in the respects of its economic value, culture methods and physiological mechanism. Nevertheless, there were few researches about the economic benefit and investment risk of sea cucumber culture. The aim of the study is to carry out a bio-economic evaluation of sea cucumber in the earthen ponds so as to provide reliable data for investors.
1 Methods
1.1 Bio-economic model
The bio-economic model of sea cucumber culture is shown in Figure 1. The economic income was influenced by the culture technique and market price. The whole culture period of sea cucumber was mainly determined by the size of juvenile. Juveniles at the size of 2-15g/ind., 15-30g/ind. and 30-60g/ind. need be cultured 2.5 year, 1.5 year and 1 year, respectively. However, the input and survival rate were different as the size of juvenile varied.

Figure 1 Bio-economic model of sea cucumber culture
1.2 Data source
All financial data in the present study were collected from three commercial sea cucumber farms located in Ru Shan, Wei Hai, Shan Dong provinces, China. Three earthen ponds of 0.5 ha, 2.2 ha and 1.2 ha for sea cucumber culture were selected. Data concerning sea cucumber culture, product price, economic income and expenditure cost were collected from a three-year observation (from 01/2008 to 05/2011). The investment on all the culture farms was self-financed by the investors.
1.3 Economic evaluation
The income and cost of the fourth and fifth year were estimated based on the first three-year data. The data was plotted graphically using linear regression analysis to identify any possible trends between market price per unit and that per unit size. However, it is difficult to forecast the price for two more years; thus the price of the fifth year was used for calculating the income and output of that of the sixth to tenth year.
Table 1 summarizes a range of data collected during the culture period in order to obtain accurate and valid bio-economic evaluation of the farms. Net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR) and discounted payback period were the main parameters for the evaluation of the economic income. For the experimental data, various assumptions are made in order to simplify the study and underscore the focus of the research (Table 2).

Table 1 Parameters monitored in sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicas) farm (Ionno et al., 2006)

Table 2 Data obtained from the three sea cucumber ponds

2 Results
2.1 Construction cost and operating cost of the three ponds
The construction cost of sea cucumber ponds increased in linear with varied size of the pond (Figure 2). The relationship between the total input during the three years and pond size can be described by the equation of y = 143490Ln(x) + 405559 (Figure 3), while the relationship between the input of juvenile sea cucumber and pond size can be represented by the equation of y = 42332Ln(x) + 82695 (Figure 4). Juveniles of sea cucumber at different size of 2 g, 25 g and 50 g per ind. required different prices; however, they all presented with a linear trend (Figure 5).

Figure 2 Variation of construction cost with size of pond

Figure 3 Variation of total input with size of pond during the three-year culture

Figure 4 Variation of total input of juvenile sea cucumber with size of pond

Figure 5 Fluctuation of price of sea cucumber during 2007~2011

2.2 Cost and benefit
The cost and benefit of sea cucumber culture in the three ponds were described in Table 3, Table 4 and Table 5. The data of year 1 to year 3 of the three ponds were gained throughout the culture period. The cost and benefit of year 4 to year 5 were estimated based on the trend of the first three years’ data. The data of year 6 to year 10 came from those of year 5. The inflation of labor cost, electricity cost, construction cost and chemical/cleaning product cost were not included.

Table 3 Benefit and cost of sea cucumber cultured in 0.5-ha pond

Table 4 Benefit and cost of sea cucumber cultured in 1.2-ha pond

Table 5 Benefit and cost of sea cucumber cultured in 2.3-ha pond

2.3 IRR, NPV, and payback period
IRR, NPV and payback period in ten-year period were shown in Table 6. Net present value of the sea cucumber ponds increased with the increasing pond size, obviously higher than that in the other industries. However, the internal return rate dropped at the pond size of 1.20 ha. The payback periods of three ponds were all less than 4 years (Table 5).

Table 6 IRR, NPV and payback period of the three ponds in ten year period

3 Discussion
3.1 Pond size and income
The income increased with the increasing pond size but the survival rate and income per unit decreased. Ionno et al (Ionno et al., 2006) assumed that the outcome per unit varied with different culture scales in finfish grow out system. The culture model and technique influenced the production and economic income of milkfish fry (Lee et al., 1997). In addition, the production of sea bream in net pen increased with the increasing culture area, i.e. the pen area correlated positively with the catch production (Gasca-Leyva et al., 2002).
3.2 Key variables
There are many factors that influence the production and economic income of sea cucumber culture, such as stocking density, juvenile size, water exchange rate and culture model. The survival rate of juvenile sea cucumber whose length was shorter than 5 cm was less than 30 percent; the survival rate of juveniles at length of 5-10 cm was 30-70 percent; and that of juveniles whose length was more than 10 cm exceeded 90 percent (Chang et al., 2004). According to the collected data, the stocking density of sea cucumber varied from 5 ind./m2 to 8 ind./m2, and the stocking size varied from about 10 ind./m2 to 800 ind./m2. However, the total survival rate was from 14% to 26%. The coculture ratio influenced IRR and NPV when tilapia was cocultured with redraw crayfish (Ponce-Marban et al., 2006). In addition, shelter types were influence the growth and production of sea cucumber (Qin et al., 2009).
3.3 The prospect of sea cucumber culture
From the collected data, it is revealed that low stocking density and the case of single species were the main factors that limited the production and economic income. Since there is still great potential in increasing the economic income, many studies have been done with the aim of increasing the production and economic income of sea cucumber culture in recent years. Moreover, Chinese government has supported the researches on the methods of sea cucumber culture by offering funds, such as National Key Project of Scientific and Technical Supporting Programs funded by Ministry of Science & Technology of China (Grant No.2006BAD09A01, 2006BAD09A06), and National Science Foundation of China (Grant No.30400333) and so on.
The project was founded by National Key Project of Scientific and Technical Supporting Programs funded by Ministry of Science & Technology of China (Grant No.2012BAD18B02), Guangdong Planning Project of Science and Technology (Grant No. 2011B020307002), Promoting Marine Fisheries Science and Technology of Guangdong Province (Grant No. A201101E01) and Maoming Planning Project of Science and Technology (Grant No. 2011A01001). The author would also like to acknowledge Aihua Chen for provided sea cucumber farm data and Liping Zhang for her revision.
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International Journal of Aquaculture
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