Project Protect Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumbers are found throughout the waters of the Galapagos and play a major role in the marine ecosystem of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). Unfortunately, overfishing of one particular sea cucumber species (Isostichopus fuscus) has caused their numbers to drop dangerously.

Sea cucumbers are cylinder-shaped invertebrate animals that live in seas worldwide - most Galapagos sea cucumbers belong to the genus Holothuria. They are found in a variety of sea floor habitats, either buried in the sand or attached to rocks or sand. These worm-like animals, which grow to about 20 centimeters in length, have a life span of about five to ten years when left undisturbed.

More than four million are taken legally each year (usually during a 60-day sea cucumber fishery season) and more are taken illegally.

Sea Shepherd has been involved in many patrols to arrest poachers who illegally extract the sea cucumbers to smuggle to Asia where these marine animals - related to starfish and sea urchins - can be considered delicacies. Demand is increasing for these cucumbers which are cooked, dried, and then used in soups and other dishes.

During the fishery season, Sea Shepherd volunteers assist in the counting and quality inspection of the fishermen's cucumber take. It is important to insure that no undersized or juvenile sea cucumbers are taken as this will further the negative impact to the marine ecosystem.

 

Field reports about our work to protect the sea cucumbers: