Sea Cucumbers

NOV 26

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

Why in news?

  • The 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has accepted a proposal to include sea cucumbers in Appendix II of the Convention.

About Sea Cucumbers:

  • Sea cucumbers are marine invertebrates that live on the seafloor. They’re named for their unusual oblong shape that resembles a fat cucumber.
  • They are part of a larger animal group called echinoderms, which also contains starfish and sea urchins.
  • They live on the sandy bottoms of oceans (largely in tropical regions), where they perform the important ecological function of nutrient cycling.
    • However, their larvae are planktonic, meaning they float in the ocean with the currents.
  • Sea cucumbers can breed sexually or asexually.
  • They are not typically eaten in South Asia. Instead, their harvest here is for demand from East Asia.
  • There are about 1,250 species of sea cucumber

Significance:

  • Sea Cucumbers 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
  • CITES:
    • Included in Appendix II.
  • In 2020, the Lakshadweep Islands administration created the world’s first conservation area for sea cucumbers.

Add ons:

  • According to Wildlife Conservation Society-India WCS-India), sea cucumbers were the most frequently trafficked marine species in India from 2015-2021.

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