Day 5: Ocean… Now With a Side of Sea Cucumber

Day 5 started off nice and early with two very informative lectures; one from Ann discussing gender and resources and one from Jack, a fisheries scientist working with the Ebiil Society on restoring sea cucumber populations. Ann covered the difference between what men and women traditionally gathered and fished. Traditionally, men have been assigned the roles of managing and fishing for larger fin fish species that exist further off the shore (using methods such as spear fishing, trolling and net use), while women often managed and foraged fisheries such as clams and sea cucumbers in shallow water sites, a process known as gleaning. The takeaway from Ann’s presentation was the importance of working with nature rather than against it.

Jack’s presentation focused on his own work of study in the field and laboratory. Jack explained the individual needs of developing sea cucumbers and the numerous factors that need to be considered when raising and planting the juveniles, such as timing of the tides and moon cycles.

Students setting up transects

With tide timing in mind, we set out to the nearby sea grass beds after both presentations. Led by Ime, a team member of the cucumber restoration project, we set up multiple transect lines to record sea grass species diversity and the overall amount of sea grass percentage. We also noted any sea cucumbers we found along the way.

Ime giving a live demonstration of sea cucumber harvesting
sea cucumbers 🙂

After walking back, Mekatl Blaiyok, a Palauan traditional healer spoke with us about her practices with native plants and how the loss of Palauan land to development negatively affected said practices. Most of her knowledge she kept to herself since healers only shared the details of their practice to their apprentice, however, she did share the name of some key plants that can be used in a variety of different ways, especially in traditional first birth ceremonies. As we waited for the tides to come in for the replanting of the sea cucumbers, we had a lunch of yogurt fruit salad and sea cucumber with lime and soy sauce while enjoying the exceptionally sunny clear skies. Around sunset the water was finally high enough for us to take out the paddle boards and sea cucumber juveniles, and head back to the sea grass beds. Planting from the same transects we had set up earlier, we placed hand fulls of nail sized cucumbers in the bunches of sea grass and made our way back to the dock. 

Planting sea cucumbers at high tide
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