Sea Cucumbers

SEP 20

Preliminary   > Environment and Ecology   >   Species extinction & protection   >   Species in news

In news:

  • An analysis of the illegal trade of marine species in India between 2015 and 2021 pointed out that sea cucumbers were the most frequently seized marine species group.

About sea cucumbers:

  • Despite their name,sea cucumbers are not vegetables.
  • They areechinoderms(amarine invertebrate), from the same phylum of marine animals that includesstarfish and sea urchins.
  • Theylive on the sandy bottoms of oceans, where theyperform the important ecological function of nutrient cycling.
  • Sea cucumbers arefound on the sea floor worldwide, but largely in tropical regions.
  • There are about 1,250 species of sea cucumber
  • They arenot typically eaten in South Asia. Instead, their harvest here is for demand from East Asia.

Significance:

  • They are an integral part of the coral ecosystem as one of the main by-products of the sea cucumbers digestion of sand is calcium carbonate and this is essential for the survival of the coral reefs.
  • They act like garbage collectors of the ocean world, and they recycle nutrients, thus playing an important role in keeping coral reefs in good condition.

Concerns:

  • Illegal trading and smuggling, since the species is high in demand across south-east Asia, mainly China, for food and traditional medicine.
  • For the harvesters, the slow-moving sea cucumbers are easy pickings. But this has led to sea cucumber populations becoming overexploited across much of their historical ranges.
  • India banned the sea cucumber fishery in 2001, while Sri Lanka tried to restrict the trade through a system of permits issued for collection, processing, transporting and exporting.
  • This disparity has allowed Indian fishers to exploit Sri Lanka’s legalised sea cucumber trade.
  • They do this by smuggling their harvest to Sri Lanka to “launder” the Indian sea cucumbers with the legally permitted supplies for export.

Protection:

  • IUCN Red List: Brown Sea Cucumber (Endangered), Blackspotted Sea Cucumber (Least Concern), Blue Sea Cucumber (Data Deficient), etc.
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I.
  • In 2020, the Lakshadweep Islands administration created the world’s first conservation area for sea cucumbers.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Which of the following statements are correct regarding ‘Sea Cucumbers’

1. Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide

2. India banned the sea cucumber fishery

3. World’s first conservation area for sea cucumbers is located in Andaman Sea

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1,2 and 3

Answer