An Indian Coast Guard (ICG) team in the southern state of Tamil Nadu seized 600 kilograms of sea cucumber from a small boat involved in smuggling.
The market value of the seized sea cucumbers is said to be around Rs 30 million (around $ 400,000).
Based on information, the ICG team located the suspicious vessel in Mandapam, Ramanathapuram district, and sealed off the route to block their escape.
Subsequently, the boat was found anchored off the coast of Uchhipalli in Ramanathapuram on Tuesday afternoon.
Coast Guard teams then searched the vessel and recovered 31 jute sacks of sea cucumbers weighing 600 kg. The boat, along with the seized sea cucumbers, were then taken to Mandapam and handed over to forest department officials.
Sea cucumbers are an important constituent of the marine ecosystem as they play a key role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem.
By excreting inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus, sea cucumbers improve the productivity of bottom-dwelling animals, those that live on the ocean floor.
One of the byproducts of sea cucumber digestion of sand is calcium carbonate, a key component of the coral reef. To survive, coral reefs must accumulate calcium carbonate, and therefore sea cucumbers play a vital role in their preservation.
Sea cucumbers also maintain the transparency of seawater by eating wastewater. The diet and excretion of sea cucumbers also increases alkalinity, which counteracts ocean acidification.
Illegal harvesting and overexploitation of these animals results in degradation of sediment health, reduced nutrient recycling and impact on biodiversity.
In India, sea cucumber is treated as an endangered species and is listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.