Sea cucumbers play a critical role in keeping coral reefs and other tropical ocean ecosystems healthy but did you know that they’re also edible? The Chinese do.
A study released on February 19, 2018 shows that sea cucumbers are in high demand in China, causing havoc as these creatures could be a viable source in aiding as a buffer to dying corals against ocean acidification.
The sea creatures are cooked and dried into bêche-de-mer, French for “sea worm”, and shipped to Hong Kong where they are then distributed across the mainland of China.
Bêche-de-mer is being sold for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars per pound. Because of their high price tag, many distributers and sellers are not so quick to take them off of their shelves, resulting in more and more sea cucumbers finding themselves victim to this trade.
Over 70 species of sea cucumbers are being fished out of the seas to meet demands, with 16 species already on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2013.
The ease of fishing for sea cucumbers leaves little to no way of restricting fisherman opportunists, even if fisherman were to agree to a management plan to conserve the sea creature. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has the authority to regulate international trade in wild life but has declined to vote in trade restrictions for sea cucumbers.
Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and top lobbyist Severin Beliveau have worked together and have gotten bill H.R. 2504 passed in the House “to ensure fair treatment licensing requirements for the export of certain echinoderms,” and Beliveau, working on behalf of a small group of Maine seafood dealers, has set the goal to get sea cucumbers, as well as sea urchins, excluded from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services inspections of Wildlife imports and exports.
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4Ocean has dedicated itself to conserving the ocean and beaches with year round beach cleanups and dives as well as a fleet of boats on the ocean seven days a week pulling trash. Every month this year, we have partnered with a different organization to support a different cause. This March, we have partnered with the Coral Restoration Foundation
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As we got closer to the ocean floor, we began to approach a reef; this reef was nothing short of epic. The colours were bright and everything appeared to be healthy with marine life flourishing... that was until the current changed. Within seconds, this heaving reef became surrounded with plastic and rubbish.