Over-exploitation of sea cucumbers damages ecosystem: HC

One should not forget that over-exploitation of sea cucumbers not only damages the marine ecosystem but the human ecosystem as well, more particularly the fishermen’s. They both are interdependent, observed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court while dismissing bail petitions of an accused who had illegally possessed sea cucumbers worth crores of rupees.

Justice B. Pugalendhi said that over exploitation of sea cucumbers would decrease sediment health, reduce nutrient recycling and potential benefits of deposit feeding to seawater chemistry. It would diminish the biodiversity of associated symbionts and reduce the transfer of organic matter from detritus to higher trophic levels.

To avoid such a situation, sea cucumbers are listed in Schedule I, Part IV-C of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and are strictly banned for collection and for trade in India, from 2001, the judge said. The court took cognisance of the report submitted by the Mandapam Forest Range Officer G. Venkatesh.

Forest Range Officer Venkatesh said that sea cucumbers are marine animals found on the seabed and act like earthworms in the marine environment. They feed on tiny particles like algae, minute aquatic animals or waste materials and break down these particles into even smaller pieces, which become fodder for bacteria and thus recycle them back into the ocean ecosystem.

The sea cucumber’s poop provides the nutrients required for the growth of mangroves, sea grass, etc..

Their poop on coral reefs reduces ocean acidification and contributes calcium carbonate to coral reefs. They act like natural antacid to neutralise other acidic environmental sources, the report said.

Apart from this, they have several medicinal values, for which they are being exploited. Anything that is exploited beyond a certain limit has its own consequence, the court said. A blanket submission was made before the court that while fishing, the sea cucumbers were getting caught in the net and it was not intentional. The court said that it was not inclined to accede to the submission for the reason that sea cucumbers were found on the seabed and not on the surface of the sea or the interspace.

A police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police has the power to search, arrest and detain a person involved in the offence under Wildlife Protection Act. But after registering the FIR, they ought to forward the records to the officer concerned of the Forest Department for further course of action, the court said. The court dismissed the bail petitions filed by the accused who had illegally possessed sea cucumbers worth crores of rupees in Ramanathapuram district.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 4:37:08 PM |

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