Kodiak’s only sea cucumber fishery has run into a new problem this year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the cucumbers are fine; the allotted yield is the same 120,000-pound figure it was last year. It’s the divers actually. Typically, there are over 20 divers who take the plunge every season in October to catch many thousands of pounds of sea cucumbers. According to Nat Nichols, area management biologist for dive fisheries, this season not so much as one has signed up.
The issue is likely a market problem. Divers usually pay for a permit, find their own buyers, and then catch and sell to those buyers. But without demand in overseas Asian markets, catching the cucumbers commercially would make no sense.
While sea cucumbers are still being caught elsewhere on the west coast, it may be that market forces particular to this year make Kodiak a less profitable option for those in the trade. Sea cucumbers are not the only catch that suffers from this issue; there has not been a sea urchin caught under a fisheries permit in Kodiak for nearly two decades.
There is no reason to believe that the sea cucumbers in Kodiak will be a rare harvest in the future, but it seems unlikely that market demand will change drastically over the course of the October-to-April season.