The illegal sea cucumber trade continues in Lakshadweep, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the investigation along with team of the agency, on the seized material. It is expected to visit the federal territory by today.
The Forest department on Monday confiscated a delivery of 22 large sea cucumbers worth around Rs. 20lakh from a disclaimed building in Lakshadweep.
Officials informed that the delivery was stored after processing with preservatives, dried, and kept ready for transportation to several locations like China and other Southeast Asian countries, as worm-like sea single branched marine organisms are used for food and traditional medicine there.
Thus, a wildlife offence report has been filed against unidentified people at a local court. Besides, the investigation is underway to arrest the suspects and accused ones involved the crime.
Sea cucumbers are typically sold in dried, canned or frozen forms. Its powders and extracts are also available in the black market. The price of a kg of dried sea cucumber was Rs 27,200 (US$370) a decade back.
Under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, any trade involving sea cucumbers is strictly prohibited.
Over 1,500 kg sea cucumbers have been seized from Lakshadweep this year worth Rs 6crore, according to data. Authorities made the largest global seizure of 1,716 sea cucumbers from a remote unpopulated island in February. They weighed 852 kg and were estimated to be worth Rs 4.26crore.
Damodhar an official of AT, secretary of environment said, these offenses are increasing at distressing speed more due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As Lakshadweep is the only area where there are no Covid-19 cases.
As a result, they are following strict Central guidelines but there are boats travelling in domestic waters supplying ice to local fishers and in exchange corrupt fishermen are filling up those boxes with dried sea cucumbers, according to sources.
As the investigation has already been delayed, the quarantine period for the CBI team has been reduced from 21 days to seven, said Damodhar. Amidst this another workforce of around 200 men is being recruited for the Lakshadweep Marine Wildlife Protection Force which will be deployed across anti-poaching camps across uninhabited islands by November.
As many as 27,166.5 kg of dry, wet, and live sea cucumbers estimated to be worth Rs.29.4crore (US$3.9 million) have been seized from India over the past five years, an analysis of Hong Kong-based non-profit organization Oceans Asia has been found.