Sea Cucumber

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    Context

    • Recent Chinese investment in a Sea cucumber farm has raised concerns among northern Sri Lankan fishermen.

    Sea Cucumber

    • About:
      • Sea cucumbers are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad. 
      • They are found in both tropical and temperate oceans, where they inhabit the intertidal zone as well as deeper water.
      • In India, other than the sea around Lakshadweep islands and Andaman Nicobar islands, the Gulf of Mannar at the confluence of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu is also home to sea cucumbers.
    • Demand:
      • This endangered species is in high demand in China and Southeast Asia, where they are consumed as food and used in medicine. 
      • Contain high levels of a chemical called fucosylated glycosaminoglycan in their skin, which people across Asia have been using to treat joint problems like arthritis for centuries.
    • Role in Coral Reef preservation: 
      • 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.   

    • Protection:
      • Protected under Schedule I under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972 so their trade is banned. 
      • In India, it is treated as an endangered species listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
      • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change imposed a total ban on harvesting and transporting sea cucumbers in 2001.
      • Lakshadweep has created the world’s first conservation area for sea cucumbers.

    Source: TH