Navy intercepts illegal shipment of Sea Cucumbers

Indian smugglers take advantage of Sri Lanka’s liberal laws on export of marine creatures.
On Thursday, on the high seas off Kovilam, along the Northern coast, the Sri Lanka Navy intercepted a fishing boat and seized 20 gunny bags containing 996 kilos of dried sea cucumber. Four persons were arrested. The Navy believes the illegal cargo had been transferred to the fishing craft far out at sea with the assistance of Indian collaborators involved in cross-border racketeering.

Photo shows processing of Sea Cucumbers by Sri Lankan fishermen. (c) Dr.Terney Pradeep Kumara

Sri Lanka is known as a hub for the shipping of sea cucumber and sea horse – marine creatures prized by overseas buyers for their alleged medicinal properties.

Sea cucumber, also known as beche-de-mer, is used in Chinese medicine in East Asian countries, and demand is high. It is illegal to trade in sea cucumber and sea horse in India. In Sri Lanka, the marine creatures are treated as a fisheries resource and may be exported with a permit.

India’s Rameshwaran Island has a reputation for being a base for sea cucumber and sea horse smuggling.

Since the end of the war in the North and the East, smuggling activity has been on the increase.

Unsustainable fishing, according to Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, head of the Oceanography Department, University of Ruhuna, is threatening the survival of the sea cucumber.

The marine creature is a slow breeder, and it takes a long time for a population to regenerate after a spell of over-fishing. These creatures help maintain a balance in the marine ecosystem by keeping the sea floor clear of unwelcome algae and other edible but invasive creatures.


Protecting Sri Lanka’s marine biodiversity is becoming increasingly difficult. As the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) has no marine protection unit as such, the Navy could play a role in protecting Sri Lanka’s marine life and biodiversity.

Navy to the rescue

The following is a list of incidents this year in which the Sri Lanka Navy intervened to check illegal or harmful activity threatening the country’s natural resources and biodiversity.

September 21: Navy intercepts boat carrying illegal shipment of dried sea cucumber
August 8: Navy apprehends two persons engaged in illegal fishing
July 25: Navy uncovers illicit sand-mining operation
July 21: Navy raids illicit timber felling site
May 16: Navy apprehends conch shell smugglers
April 30: Navy apprehends illegal conch shell collectors
April 16: Navy releases into deep seas stranded giant blue whale
April 2: Navy arrests conch shell smugglers
March 12: Conch shell trader arrested
March 9: Navy surveillance rounds up sea cucumber traders
January 31: Navy apprehends persons illegally diving for conch shells
January 20: Navy seizes fishing gear used for illegal fishing around Pigeon Island
January 8: Navy arrests 26 persons for illegal fishing
January 6: Navy arrests five persons for illegally diving for lobsters
January 5: Navy arrests 40 persons carrying 133 oxygen cylinders illegally diving to collect conch shells.


published on SundayTimes on


One Response to “Navy intercepts illegal shipment of Sea Cucumbers”

  1. pistol shrimp Says:

    This should be stopped in to avoid the extinction of the species in the near future.


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