Sea Cucumbers illegal trade

  • IASbaba
  • September 20, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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In news: The study conducted by the Counter Wildlife Trafficking team of the WCS-India (Wildlife Conservation Society- India) regarding illegal trade of marine species recorded 187 media reports citing marine wildlife seizures by various enforcement agencies in India from 2015 to 2021.

The publication also shed light on the international trade routes for seahorse and pipefish and sharks and rays.

About the findings:

  • Sea cucumbers were the most frequently seized marine species group.
  • Tamil Nadu recorded the highest enforcement action followed by Maharashtra, Lakshadweep, and Karnataka.
  • Sea cucumber illegal trade was followed by sea fan, seahorse and pipefish, seashell, shark and rays, sea coral and sea turtles.
  • Due to the legalised trade of sea cucumbers in countries with close proximity to India, the sea cucumber consignments were often smuggled through those countries, to be laundered and then re-exported to the Southeast Asia markets (34 incidents either mentioned attempts to illicitly export sea cucumbers to neighbouring countries)


  • Sea cucumber trade was researched using ‘crime scripts’, to understand how the smuggling networks operated. The crime script had been prepared on the basis of the 122 incidents of seizure bringing out what went into the preparation, pre activity, activity, and post activity phase of the smuggling of the marine group of species.
  • The largest volumes were harvested as an incidental catch in unselective fisheries such as trawling and gillnetting.
  • A high number of seizure incidents alone does not always indicate a high frequency of wildlife crime, and it may be a result of effective enforcement or more media interest

About Sea Cucumbers:

  • Sea cucumbers are named for their resemblance to the fruit of the cucumber plant.
  • These are echinoderms – marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad.
  • Found on the sea floor worldwide with the greatest number being in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Uses include human consumption or use in aquaculture systems. They serve a useful role in the marine ecosystem as they help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter, after which bacteria can continue the decomposition process.

What are crime scripts:

  • A narrative crime script is a step-by-step account of the procedures and decision-making processes involved in a particular event, usually relating to an illegal activity
  • It is constructed using a logical sequence of events that is easily interpreted by an observer to make themselves a participant viewer.
  • Example, an observer doesn’t need to see firefighters at a burnt house to know they were there.

Impact of Illegal Wildlife Trade:

  • Species face extinction because of demands arising out of illegal wildlife trade.
  • Overexploitation of the wildlife resources due to its illegal trade creates imbalances in the ecosystem.
  • Illegal wildlife trade as part of the illegal trade syndicates undermines the economy of the country and thereby creates social insecurity.
  • Wild plants that provide genetic variation for crops (natural source for many medicines) are threatened by the illegal trade.

Various Species-Specific Enforcement Operations:

  • Operation Save Kurma: To focus on the poaching, transportation and illegal trade of live turtles and tortoises.
  • Operation Turtshield: It was taken up to tackle the illegal trade of live turtles.
  • Operation Lesknow: To gain attention of enforcement agencies towards the illegal wildlife trade in lesser-known species of wildlife.
  • Operation Clean Art: To drag attention of enforcement agencies towards illegal wildlife trade in Mongoose hair brushes.
  • Operation Softgold: To tackle Shahtoosh Shawl (made from Chiru wool) illegal trade and to spread awareness among the weavers and traders engaged in this trade.
  • Operation Birbil: To curb illegal trade in wild cat and wild bird species.
  • Operation Wildnet: It was aimed to draw the attention of the enforcement agencies within the country to focus their attention on the ever-increasing illegal wildlife trade over the internet using social media platforms.
  • Operation Freefly: To check illegal trade of live birds.
  • Operation Wetmark: To ensure prohibition of sale of meat of wild animals in wet markets across the country.

India’s Domestic Legal Framework for Wildlife Conservation:

Constitutional Provisions for Wildlife:

  • The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
  • Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests and Wildlife.
  • Article 48 A in the Directive Principles of State policy, mandates that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

Legal Framework:

  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Environment Protection Act, 1986
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

India’s Collaboration with Global Wildlife Conservation Efforts:

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • World Heritage Convention
  • Ramsar Convention
  • The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)
  • United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)
  • International Whaling Commission (IWC)
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Global Tiger Forum (GTF)

About Wildlife Conservation Society:

  • It is a non-governmental organization. Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, the organization is now headquartered at the Bronx Zoo in New York.
  • It aims to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 14 priority regions.

Way forward:

Countering marine wildlife trade requires paradigm changes in fisheries management as a whole to reduce their capture in the first place. Thus, the international organization, national  governments along with civil society should work to bring comprehensive changes in the conservation of marine species and prohibit their illegal trade.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) Consider the following statements in respect of Trade Related Analysis of Fauna and Flora in Commerce (TRAFFIC):

  1. TRAFFIC is a bureau under United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  2. The mission of TRAFFIC is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

Which of the above statements is/are correct? (2017)

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2


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