It should not be forgotten that the overexploitation of sea cucumbers harms not only the marine ecosystem but also the human ecosystem, more particularly that of fishermen. They are both interdependent, the Madurai High Court of Madras court observed while rejecting bail requests from a defendant who illegally possessed sea cucumbers worth crore rupees.
Judge B. Pugalendhi said that overexploitation of sea cucumbers will reduce sediment health, reduce nutrient recycling and reduce the potential benefits of deposit feed for seawater chemistry. associated symbionts and would 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 Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and have been strictly prohibited for collection and trade in India since 2001, said the judge. The court took note of the report submitted by Mandapam Forest Range Officer G. Venkatesh.
Forest Range Officer Venkatesh said sea cucumbers are marine animals found on the seabed and act like earthworms in the marine environment. They feed on tiny particles like algae, tiny aquatic animals or garbage and break these particles down into even smaller pieces, which become fodder for bacteria and thus recycle them back into the ocean ecosystem.
Sea cucumber poo provides the nutrients necessary for the growth of mangroves, seagrass, etc.
Their poop on coral reefs reduces ocean acidification and brings calcium carbonate to coral reefs. They act as a natural antacid to neutralize other acidic environmental sources, according to the report.
Apart from that, they have several medicinal values, for which they are exploited. Anything that is exploited beyond a certain limit has its own consequence, the court said. A general argument was presented in court that during fishing the sea cucumbers were caught in the net and this was not intentional. The court said it was not inclined to grant the request on the grounds that sea cucumbers were found on the seabed and not on the sea surface or in the intervening space.
A police officer who does not have the rank of Deputy Police Inspector has the power to search, arrest and detain a person involved in the offense under the Wildlife Protection Act. But after registering the FIR, they should forward the files to the relevant Forestry Department officer for further action, the court said. The court rejected bail applications filed by the defendants who illegally possessed sea cucumbers worth rupee crores in the Ramanathapuram district.