by 1950. One scientific study of holothurian populations indicates that two
species - the black teat-fish ( Holothuria whitmaei ) and the surf red-fish ( Actinopyga
mauritania ) - are now regarded as overexploited; in addition, the sand-fish ( H.
scabra ) has not yet recovered from fishing to very low levels (Skewes et al.,
2004, p11). Skewes et al. (2004, p19) argued that holothurians are especially
susceptible to exploitation because they are large and easily fished; they also
stated that 'experience elsewhere has demonstrated that bêche-de-mer fisheries are
extremely prone to overexploitation, and the recovery of depleted populations is
slow and sporadic'. Skewes et al. (2004) acknowledged the particular depletion
of the sandfish ( H. scabra ) as a result of overfishing in Torres Strait and in eastern
coastal Queensland waters. However, they considered only recent (since the
mid-1980s) fishing for bêche-de-mer . As Uthicke and Benzies (2000) and Uthicke
(2004) have shown, in the Great Barrier Reef, the extent of the historical
exploitation was very much larger than the recent fishery. Uthicke et al. (2004)
have indicated the depleted status of black teatfish ( H. nobilis ) in the Great
Barrier Reef; the authors acknowledged the very slow recovery of holothurian
populations - which may take several decades - and advocated an extremely
conservative management plan for that species. It is clear that, even decades after
the most significant exploitation of these animals ceased, their populations have
still far from recovered.
1 Harbour Board, Bowen, Statistical Book No. 3, January 1931-December 1945,
RSI5551/1 Item 3, QSA.
2 The replacement of marine products with synthetic materials is also described in
OHC 13, 4 August 2003.
3 Harbour Board, Bowen, Statistical Book No. 1, July 1915-February 1926, RSI5551/1
Item 1, QSA; Harbour Board, Bowen, Statistical Book No. 3, January 1931-December
1945, RSI5551/1 Item 3, QSA.
4 Fred Mundraby, cited in Thomson (1989, p85).
5 OHC 13, 4 August 2003.
6 OHC 13, 4 August 2003.
7 See Negative No. P09334, Cairns Historical Society Image Library, Cairns Historical
8 OHC 7, 19 February 2003.
9 OHC 7, 19 February 2003.
10 OHC 7, 19 February 2003.
11 OHC 22, 12 September 2003.
12 OHC 22, 12 September 2003.
13 OHC 7, 19 February 2003; see also Domm (1970, p45).
14 'Miscellaneous correspondence re. annual returns', RSI3284/1 Item 2, QSA; see also
NADC (1946, p44).