The world&rsquos first sea cucumbers conservation reserve is being set up in Lakshadweep and will be spread across a 239 km² area. And that's good news. Here's why. Their numbers have been declining at an alarming rate thanks to the huge demand for sea cucumbers in places like China, Southeast Asia and Japan where it's considered a delicacy. They are also believed to have medicinal properties, and are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Sea cucumbers fetch a high price and are often smuggled from Lakshadweep by fishermen from the mainland who hunt the endangered species. This is even after their harvesting was deemed illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Sea cucumbers are single-branched marine organisms which are found generally on the sea bed in tropical regions. The declining number of sea cucumbers is bad news for all of us because they are crucial to maintain the balance of ocean habitats. They are an integral part of the coral ecosystem as one of the main by-products of the sea cucumbers digestion of sand is calcium carbonate and this is essential for the survival of the coral reefs. They act like garbage collectors of the ocean world, and they recycle nutrients, thus playing an important role in keeping coral reefs in good condition.
They are quite amazing to look at as well. Length-wise, they can be nine inches or even six feet, with skin that sport patterns and protuberances.