Iceland’s sea cucumber exporting business, a booming industry in its time, is now on the wane.
Vísir reports that numerous locations around Iceland that once exported sea cucumbers have had to decrease production or shut down altogether. Seafood company Reykofninn-Grundarfirði ehf. was the first to begin exporting sea cucumbers, in 2005, to east Asian countries where the creature is a luxury food that is also reputed to have medicinal properties.
At one time, Reykofninn-Grundarfirði was exporting thousands of tonnes of sea cucumbers to China every year. However, an oversupply of sea cucumbers on the open market, as well as austerity measures taken by the Chinese government to get them off the market and the massive dying off of many species of sea cucumbers, has led to Reykofninn-Grundarfirði ceasing exports of them last May.
The seafood company Hafnarnes was another company that used to export great quantities of sea cucumbers, although production has since slowed down dramatically. However, Hafnarnes director Hannes Sigurðsson told reporters he plans to change strategies, by smoking the sea cucumbers first. While fresh sea cucumbers now sell for about 200 ISK per kilo, the smoked variety can sell for as high as 5,000 ISK per kilo.
Sea cucumbers once held a lot of promise for Iceland. In 2011, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson signed a trade agreement with Hong Kong which included the exporting of sea cucumbers.
“In Hong Kong they buy all the sea cucumber they can sell,” Össur said at the time. “Because there is a shortage of the product. They use it to power up the sexual prowess of men who are middle-aged and use the sea cucumber as a sex aid.”