Sea cucumbers found on the Great Barrier Reef are being exploited in developing countries, researchers say.

Slug-like sea cucumbers found on the Great Barrier Reef are under threat from overfishing, researchers say.

A Southern Cross University study shows nine of the 16 species considered vulnerable or endangered worldwide are found on north Queensland’s World Heritage-listed reef.

“Most of those are currently, or have recently been, exploited,” lead author Dr Steven Purcell said.

Sea cucumbers, also known as sea slugs, are under threat from commercial fishing but mainly in developing countries, his research found.

“The species are certainly at grave risk on a broader geographic scale, particularly in low-income developing countries where fishing pressure is high and management insufficient,” he said, adding poorer countries needed help to impose trade restrictions on the threatened species which are lucrative in some markets.

In Australia, sea cucumbers are fished within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Coral Sea, Torres Strait, Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia.