Chennai: The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is conducting a study on the population status of sea cucumber along the Coromandal Coast, based on whose report the Centre would decide on whether to lift the ban on fishing the leathery echinoderm.
"Based on the request made by Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT), the Zoological Survey of India is doing the survey. The study is being funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)," official sources said.
The sample of trawling study would bring to light whether the population of the bioturbators have gone down, following frequent cases of illegal fishing and shipping the marine species to Eastern countries where they are in great demand.
"In many eastern countries, sea cucumbers are in great demand, as they are believed to have aphrodisiac and other medicinal properties. But, since sea cucumbers are abundant in the Coromandal Coast and their texture fished here are supposed to be good, they are illegally fished", the sources said.
Seven of the 25 trawlings planned for the study have been completed. "ZSI have submitted an initial estimate report to GoMBRT. But that would not say much, it all depends on the final report it makes after completing all 25 trawlings," the sources said.
Though these holothurians are placed in Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, totally banning its fishing, fisherfolk have demanded to lift the ban claiming that the marine species is more in number than assumed and need not be banned from fishing.
Instances of illegal fishing of sea cucumbers are recorded high in Tamil Nadu during the 45 day fishing ban in May-June every year.