Sea Cucumbers are not related to the fruit found in salads and a variety of cocktails. They are marine animals, more specifically Echinoderms whose closest relatives are star fish (sea stars if you prefer), sea urchins, and sand dollars. Scientific articles for public consumption on sea cucumbers typically venture only as class (Holothuroidea) for the interesting sea creature is known to date to have 1,717 species. They also have as many colorful names: Spanish Dancer, Chocolate Chip sea cucumber, Sea Apple shaped like a Christmas ornament to name but three.
Until 2012, sea cucumbers were known as bottom feeding detritus eaters and highly sought after as well as very expensive Asian cuisine delicacies and remedies for a variety of aliments including fatigue, frequent urination and waning libidos. After that date, scientists around the world (at the University of Sydney, Stanford and others) began to recognize sea cucumbers as important contributors to coral reef health. The alkaline excretions help counter acidification threatening corals and the calcium carbonate they leave behind is vital to coral growth.
The article by National Geographic writer Maraya Cornell linked below issues a warning, a dire warning about the disaster heading towards coral reef survival thanks to society’s increasing wealth and human efforts to gather in more wealth at the expense of the sea creatures called cucumbers or corals. Encouraging that greed through legislation or overfishing or an unfettered hunger for the illusion of eternal life is compounds the problem. Today the illegal fishing activity from the taking of undersize specimens to using illegal diving gear to gather them from greater depths is indeed depleting these sea animals.
IFCNR applauds National Geographic for bringing the importance of finding solutions to overharvesting of sea cucumbers and the degradation of coral reefs to the public.
IFCNR recognizes the economic importance of sea cucumbers to the fishermen (who tend to be among the world’s most impoverished), processors, retail outlets, restaurants and traditional medicine purveyors. That is why we are talking to marine biologists about ways to remedy the situation that take into consideration the needs of the sea cucumbers, coral reefs and those engaged in the industry. Techniques from “crop rotation” to improving hatchery protocols, and diverting the supply of sea cucumbers from the wild to aquaculture are all being pursued.
Please feel free to contact IFCNR directly on this matter or any postings shared on our site. Contact can be made through our website at http://www.ifcnr.org/contact/.
Click the here to read the complete article by Mary Cornell for National Geographic.