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article imageSea cumbers remain in danger as popularity as food source rises Special

By Tim Sandle     Feb 26, 2015 in Environment
Trade in shark fins has fallen in the past year, according to a new study. This is despite the continuing popularity for shark’s fin soup in China.
The new study has been commissioned by WorldFish, written by biologist Hampus Eriksson and shark expert Shelley Clarke, who works at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security. WorldFish is a research organization aims to use aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. The report is titled “Chinese market responses to overexploitation of sharks and sea cucumbers.”
Although the report is good news for the diminishing shark populations, the report indicates that another sea creature, also popular as a “food delicacy” is threatened. This is the sea cucumber and numbers have fallen to the extent that some seven species are now on the endangered species list. This is, according to the study, a direct result of overfishing.
Sea cucumbers are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body. The sea cucumbers are, unsurprisingly, named for their resemblance to the vegetable cucumber. Several dishes are made with sea cucumber, where it adds a slippery texture to soup-like dishes containing such additional ingredients as winter melon, dried scallop, kai-lan, shiitake mushroom, and Chinese cabbage.
Most sea cumbers are found around the Pacific Islands; a region that also provides a considerable proportion of the world’s tuna. Whilst tuna fishing is relatively complex, sea cucumbers can be harvested with minimal equipment and it the activity tends to be undertaken by the poorer members of the community, who have few options other to engage in aquaculture.
Sea cucumbers play an important role in the ecology of the oceans, recycling nutrients and reducing levels of toxicity.
Due to the falling numbers of sea cucumbers, the report calls on greater conservation efforts. The solution, the report recommends, is to offer the people whose livelihoods depend on fishing sea cucumbers alternative work and to target the supply chains in order to stop the sea cucumbers from reaching market.
Raising the issue with Digital Journal, Stephen J Hall, Director General, WorldFish said: “We must achieve a balance between conservation and the livelihoods of those that depend on this valuable resource.”
Hall went onto add: “Improved trade monitoring systems will greatly assist in guiding appropriate management responses. In parallel we should also put greater effort into understanding the potential of aquaculture to reduce the pressure on wild caught sea cucumber.”
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