Illegal trade poses threat to protected marine molluscs


Indiscriminate collection of shells for food, a thriving illegal shell trade market, and poor enforcement of laws have led to a decline in the population of protected marine molluscs in the Lakshadweep islands.

A majority of the 24 species of marine molluscs listed in various schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of India are preferred items in shell trade markets, say scientists who recently carried out a survey on the molluscs in the archipelago.

The scientists from the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala and the Department of Science and Technology, Kavaratti, Lakshadweep, recorded the presence of 14 species of marine molluscs in the islands. These include two species, Tudicla spirillus and Placuna placenta , both included in Schedule 4 of WPA and reported for the first time from Lakshadweep. The findings have been published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, an open-access publication on conservation and taxonomy.

During the survey covering Agatti, Androth, Bitra, Kadamat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Minicoy, and the uninhabited island of Bangaram, the organisms were photo-documented using methods such as scuba diving, snorkelling, and intertidal handpicking.

‘Little attention’

Lead author A. Bijukumar of the University of Kerala says research work on marine molluscs and their conservation had received little attention in policy documents. “Many of the species that were found in abundance earlier in Lakshadweep are rarely seen these days, indicating a decline in population. Molluscs such as cowries and octopuses are collected in large numbers,” he says.

The majority of the species are widely collected for food as they are an important source of protein for the islanders who are ignorant of their conservation status. Though there is no organised shell trade in Lakshadweep, a thriving illegal market leads to indiscriminate collection. The research team has prepared a poster on the scheduled species of molluscs in Lakshadweep to create awareness among the population.

The scientists have called for the preparation of a People’s Biodiversity Register for the island ecosystems to help in developing management plans.

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Printable version | Nov 21, 2019 9:03:53 PM |

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