Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber

Apostichopus japonicus

Common Name(s)

Japanese sea cucumber

Medium Risk

Stable, not optimal but not poor status. AND Actions identified to reduce environmental impact and/or improve management or stock status. May be data deficient with stable catches.


刺參 ("Chi Sum")


Japanische Stachelseegurke


Bêche-de-mer japonaise




Cohombro de mar japonés mar japonés


Трепанг дальневосточный

Date of Assessments

October 2021

Peer Reviewer

Dr Steven W Purcell, Southern Cross University, Australia

Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


Collection of Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber is prohibited during closed seasons in some areas in Japan. The species is available in dried form all-year-round.



  • Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus) is a species found in the Northwest Pacific region including, Japan, China, Korea and Far Eastern Russia. This species occurs in shallow reef areas from 0–40 m deep.
  • This species can grow to 30cm in total length and matures at about two years old (about 200g weight). It is a broadcast spawner; mature individuals release eggs and sperm into the water and external fertilization occurs in the water column.
  • Global wild capture of sea cucumbers (different species combined in live weight) in the latest FAO estimation in 2019 was about 59,000[1] tonnes (FAO 2021).
  • Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber is the most valuable of all sea cucumber species and the most commercially important sea cucumber from Japan., It is targeted by commercial fishermen.
  • Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber (especially the red variant) can be found on rocky reef areas where it seeks refuge.
  • The species aggregates and commonly occurs in depths to 20–40 m, deeper than most of the other commercially important sea cucumbers of the world. Therefore, individuals are not so readily accessible by divers as species that predominantly occur in shallow water and dredges are often used for collection.
  • Sea cucumber catch volumes in Japan declined by about 30% between the 1960s and 2005. Production method of the species has largely shifted away from wild capture to aquaculture in Japan, China and Korea (IUCN 2013; Xu et al. 2015). The latest 2019 wild capture volume of Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber (in live weight) from Japan was about 6,500 tonnes, while data on aquaculture production were not available.
[1] The FAO statistics are catalogued on FishStatJ software by FAO and by default (not by specification), the Unit name is “Tonnes – live weight” but major published reviews (e.g., FAO global review report) illustrate that many of the countries are actually reporting dried products, which are very roughly one-tenth of the weight of the fresh live animals. So, a large number of the data entries are underestimating live weight by a order of magnitude. The discrepancies in FAO data have been known for many decades and reported in several publications.

Benthic dredges

This collection method could result in bycatch of other species and serious physical damage to seafloor habitats.

Direct collection by divers (with compressors)

This collection method is highly selective and therefore likely to cause negligible bycatch and to have limited impacts on natural habitats. However, removal of the species, which is important for recycling soft sediments, could have ecosystem impacts.

  • The Latin species name
  • Evidence of the country of origin
  • Evidence of production method (aquaculture or wild sourced)
  • Evidence that wild-sourced animals are is caught according to national guidelines and regulations for the species (e.g. compliant with minimum sizes, protected seasons, etc.), for both the fishery and aquaculture (i.e. grow-out) operation components.


No Known FIP


  • Japanese Spiky Sea Cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus) from Japan taken from the wild can be considered at medium risk, given that many of the animals are collected using destructive benthic dredges, the products are highly valuable putting them at high risk of exploitation, and because wild populations have been categorized as Endangered with extinction by the IUCN. Also, the effectiveness of existing management measures is not known.
  • Collection of sea cucumbers requires an allocation of “fishing rights” from the Sea-area Fishery Adjustment Commission (SFAC). Collection of small individuals weighing less than 100g is prohibited in Japan.
  • Depending on the location, other management measures may be in force. There are recovery plans for wild populations of the species including closed seasons, minimum collection size, mesh size restrictions and no–fishing areas.
  • Information on the effectiveness or implementation of management measures for this species is not available.