White teatfish

Holothuria fuscogilva

Common Name(s)

White teatfish

Low Risk

Certified to a third party environmental sustainability standard OR Stable and productive low impact fishery with precautionary management, proven effectiveness and confidence that the status will be maintained or further improved. If the stock is data deficient with stable catches.


豬婆參 ('Chu Por Sum')


Holothuries à mamelles

Date of Assessments

October 2021

Peer Reviewer

Dr Steven W Purcell, Southern Cross University, Australia

Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


White teatfish are available in dried form all-year-round.



  • White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva) are widely distributed in coastal areas, including around coral reefs and seagrasses of Southeast Asia. The species occurs between from 0–40 m, mostly in deeper waters (15–30 m).
  • The species has low mobility, moderate to late sexual maturity (about 2-6 years old), density-dependent reproduction (by broadcast spawning and external fertilization) and low recruitment rates. These properties make the species vulnerable to over-exploitation. The species is considered “Vulnerable” according to the IUCN Red List.
  • Sea cucumbers have an important ecological role in regulating water quality by recycling nutrients in sediments.
  • Global wild capture of sea cucumbers (several different species combined in live weight) in the latest FAO estimation in 2019 was about 59,000[1] The most recent total capture of White teatfish reported by Australia in 2019 was about 54 tonnes (live weight).
  • White teatfish is highly valued and is targeted by fishermen together with other species of sea cucumber for international trade, mainly for food.
  • White teatfish occur mostly in deeper waters, relatively deeper than another valuable sea cucumber species Black teatfish (Holothuria whitmaei). Some of the population is a bit deeper than even hookah divers will venture and therefore White teatfish face less fishing pressure than the Black teatfish or may find some refuge in deeper waters.
  • White teatfish, together with Holothuria nobilis and Holothuria whitmaei, were listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II in 2019. International trade of the species is now under the management of CITES and valid permits are required for imports and exports of the species. Exports are only allowed if these are determined the source countries not to be detrimental to the species.
[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.

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, vessel flag, and capture method
  • Evidence that fish sources are compliant with national regulations
  • Evidence that the species is caught according to national guidelines and regulations for the species (e.g. compliant with minimum sizes, etc.).
  • Evidence that the Hong Kong importer has complied with trade regulations
  • Evidence of compliance with the CITES regulations throughout the trade, for example necessary trade permits and records
  • Note that past trade records of the species (sources, destinations, volumes, forms, etc.) since CITES listing can be accessed at the CITES Trade Database (https://trade.cites.org/).


No Known FIP


  • White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva) from Australia can be considered to be at low risk.
  • In 2021, stock assessments were conducted for White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva) in the two major harvesting areas in Australia, Queensland and Torres Strait. Current stocks and fishing efforts were estimated to be at sustainable levels from both areas. However, decline in catches in the Queensland (East Coast) have been recorded since 1990s, but this trend could in part be attributed to the low TAC.
  • Management schemes of sea cucumber fisheries in Australia vary among jurisdictions and generally include total annual allowable catch, minimum size limits, collection method controls, vessel controls and compulsory logbook and reporting system for commercial fishermen. Fisheries for this species in Queensland is subject to rotational harvest strategy and quotas. For the detailed management scheme in Queensland and Torres Strait, please refer to the full risk assessment in excel.
  • Regular surveillance and monitoring are performed. The number of reported illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing incidents and trade recorded have been declining in the past decade.
  • Only two permitted shipments of exports from Australia in 2020, in total about 4,100 kg of bodies/meat, were recorded in the CITES Trade Database (https://trade.cites.org/) since listing of the species. The exported volume of the species was permitted within the total annual allowable catch in Australia.
  • Long-term monitoring is needed to assess the effectiveness of management measures especially in relation to CITES compliance.
  • Hong Kong is the major importer of sea cucumbers from Australia, which is considered a source of high-quality products.