Trepanging is comparable to , , , musseling, and other forms of "" whose goal is the acquisition of edible invertebrates rather than fish.
While largely unknown in the , trepanging is an economically important activity in some areas of the globe, particularly Southeast Asia. Sea cucumber is considered a in Far East countries such as Malaysia, China, Japan, and Indonesia.
Besides being valued for flavour-enhancing properties, sea cucumber is widely regarded as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. There is evidence that its reputed properties are actually true.
Based upon the belief in the healing properties of trepang, and cosmetics companies have developed pills, oils, and creams based on their extracts. The effectiveness of sea cucumber extract in tissue repair has been the subject of recent scientific study.
As slow-moving creatures related to starfish and sea urchins, sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor. As such, trepanging is accomplished by spearing, , or simply picking the animals up by hand when they are exposed at low tide.
Traditionally, sea cucumbers were placed in before being and to preserve the trepang for journey to market.
:''See also: History of fishing
To supply the markets of Southern China, Muslim trepangers from Makassar, Indonesia traded with the Indigenous Australians of Arnhem Land from the early 1700s or before. This Macassan contact with Australia is the first recorded example of interaction between the inhabitants of the Australian continent and their Asian neighbours.
This contact had a major . The Macassans exchanged goods such as cloth, tobacco, , rice and for the right to trepang coastal waters and employ local labour. Macassan pidgin became a ''lingua franca'' along the north coast among different Indigenous Australian groups who were brought into greater contact with each other by the seafaring Macassan culture.
Remains of Macassan trepang processing plants from the 18th and 19th centuries can still be found at Australian locations such as Port Essington and Groote Eylandt, along with stands of tamarind trees introduced by the seafaring Muslims.