In news–Recently, the Indian Coast Guard has seized two tonnes of banned sea cucumber in Tamil Nadu’s Mandapam.
About sea cucumber-
- Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea.
- They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad.
- They are found in all oceans, mostly in shallow water but sometimes at depths of many thousands of metres.
- They are best represented in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.
- Sea cucumbers are named for their resemblance to the fruit of the cucumber plant.
- Like all echinoderms, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin, calcified structures that are usually reduced to isolated microscopic ossicles joined by connective tissue.
- It has a soft cylindrical body, 2 to 200 cm long and 1 to 20 cm (0.4–8 inches) thick, is usually a dull, dark colour and often warty, thus resembling a cucumber.
- They help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter after which bacteria can continue the degradation process
- One of the by-products of the sea cucumber’s digestion of sand is calcium carbonate, a key component of coral reef.
- To survive, coral reefs must accumulate calcium carbonate, and thus sea cucumbers play a vital role in their preservation.
- They also maintain the transparency of seawater by eating sewage.
- Feeding and excretion by sea cucumbers also increase alkalinity, which counteracts ocean acidification.
- Illegal harvesting and overexploitation of these animals leads to poorer sediment health, reduces nutrient recycling and impacts biodiversity.
- It is in high demand in China and South-East Asia, where it is consumed as a delicacy.
- It is also used for various medicinal purposes.
- In India, Sea cucumber is treated as an endangered species listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
- They cannot be transported in any form for commercial use and are also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which India is a signatory.
- A total ban on harvesting of sea cucumbers was imposed in 2001 under the WPA by the Union environment ministry.
- In 2020, the Indian government created the world’s first sea cucumber conservation area, the Dr KK Mohammed Koya Sea Cucumber Conservation Reserve, in the Cheriyapani Reef in the Indian Union Territory of Lakshadweep.