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Golden Sandfish (Holothuria scabra)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 162513752

Cool Cucumbers! Can these salty invertebrates be exploited?

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 162513752) - Golden Sandfish - Awarded $25,000 on October 12, 2016


India has over 200 species of sea cucumbers that inhabit some of the varied habitats along its 7500km long coastline. In the past, sea cucumbers were heavily exploited leading to a decreasing population trend of many species and even local extirpations. Today, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act lists all sea cucumbers as protected and this means, sea cucumber cannot be legally harvested. But after a 15 year ban, there is a move to delist these species to open the market. But, do we have enough unbiased information regarding illegal sea cucumber trade, livelihood dependency, and population trends.

Holothuria scabra is one of the most commercially important species along with H. nobilis and Thelenota ananas, all Endangered species on the IUCN Red List, have significantly depleted by over 50% of their population due to over exploitation. This commercial trade is for the East- and Southeast Asian food industry where sea cucumbers form a part of traditional medicine for patients having undergone major surgeries and possibly other ailments. Another threatened focus species of the project Actinopyga echinites (Vulnerable) is found in outer reef flats in moderately shallow waters and seagrass beds and A. mauritiana is a relatively cryptic species but has been still overexploited in 25% of its range (including India). Holothuria fuscigilva (VU) as also threatened as a major delicacy for preparing beche-de-mer. These species range from medium-high commercial value and may become more popular as higher commercial value species disappear. 

This project intends to tie the policymakers and communities together to inform policy on livelihood dependence, commercial pressure, illegal trade and most importantly to provide evidence to decision makers to support the listing or delisting of these highly threatened and commercially valuable species in the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. 


The anticipated outcomes from the one-year project are to provide unbiased statistics or dependence, need, alternatives, a baseline for thorough studies, and to develop viable conservation and use strategies for highly threatened and commercially important marine species in India.


Project 162513752 location - India, Asia