Chennai: The Tamil Nadu coastal police are conducting searches in several mechanised boats and questioning fishermen after one tonne of sea cucumbers was seized while it was about to be shipped illegally to Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Three people have been arrested for processing and smuggling sea cucumbers to Sri Lanka.
Sources in the coastal police told IANS that even after several awareness programmes were conducted against sea cucumber smuggling, there is unabated smuggling of the endangered species from the area.
It may be noted that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified sea-cucumbers (Kadal Attai) as an endangered species. The sea cucumber is a food and medicinal supplement in several countries like China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Japan and some other far eastern countries.
According to the police and forest authorities, one metric tonne of sea cucumber is valued at Rs 30 lakh in India but if it is smuggled into countries like Sri Lanka or China, the amount is four to five times the value in India.
Meanwhile, Armstrong Fernando, Chairman, ‘All India Fishermen Congress’, the fishermen wing of the Congress, said that there were 10 types of sea cucumbers in the waters adjoining the Ramanathapuram coast and that they were capable of laying lakhs of eggs in every six months.
While speaking to IANS, he said, “The marine animal’s population has increased drastically since the last two decades and classifying it still as an endangered species is misleading.”
The Congress wing is planning a protest in April 2023 in New Delhi to bring to the notice of the central government to lift the ban on sea cucumber catch and to make it legal so that the revenue is increased manifold for the fishermen of the area.
The sea cucumber fishing was banned in 2001 but smuggling has been rampant from the area and cartels have been controlling the market thus leaving ordinary fishermen, out of the loop.
However, sources in the Coastal security police of Tamil Nadu told IANS that they were continuing the searches in boats as well as godowns and ice factories where fish is stored in Nagapattinam area.
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