Posted by Elaine on March 14, 2005 at 14:34:01:
Story and Photos © Elaine Jobin
May not be copied or reproduced without advanced permission
On Sunday March 13th I had an underwater encounter with a Sea Cucumber Harvester (i.e.: Commercial Fisherman) at Ship Rock.
Sunday was a beautiful day to be out diving. Fishermen were enjoying their leisure time on Jet Skis.
On my dive, while cruising though the kelp at about 70 feet I saw a wetsuit clad diver on the end of a long yellow line. Wow, a “free diver at 70ft photo” I zoomed over to catch a shot before he took off for the surface.
On closer inspection, I realized that the long yellow line was surface support air. I saw that this diver was toting was toting a huge game bag stuffed full with Sea Cucumbers. It dawned on me that this guy was probably a commercial fisherman who was on this boat.
I thought twice about taking photos. What if the guy wasn’t legal? What if he was poaching? What if I started taking photos and it pissed the guy off? Would a scene from “Sea Hunt” ensue? What if the smiling guy above on the Jet Ski was the accomplice that hides the bodies of photographers? A desire for photos overtook common sense and I started shooting away. These are some of the photos of a commercial Sea Cucumber harvester in action.
I was a little disturbed by the huge number of Sea Cucumbers being taken from Ship Rock. This is one of our best local dive sites and it was being stripped clean of sea cucumbers.
The annual commercial fee for Sea Cucumber Diving is $253. The take limit for recreational divers is 35 a day.
What are Sea Cucumbers being used for? A quick web search found that besides being a delicacy in Asia, VitaminUSA.com (among many others) lists a bottle of 50 Sea Cucumber pills for $20.97. The VitaminUSA website claims that “Sea cucumber has been shown to be effective in reducing the pain and inflammation seen in the arthritic and traumatized patient.” Even pet oriented web merchants are selling Sea Cucumber. DogDayCafe.com advertises “Sea Jerky® , “The Flexibility Treat for Dogs” from Nutrisea ®contains the patented Sea Cucumber extract Sea Chondrotitin® plus Glucosamine HCL (from sea crabs) to help repair damaged cartilage.”
A consumer oriented website Supplement Watch:
Provides an objective summary of Sea Cucumber uses and pointed out the fragile state of the Sea Cucumber population worldwide.
I hope that the California Sea Cucumber regulations are protective enough of our Sea Cucumbers. I don’t want to lose them like the abalone and the red urchin. No one seems to care much about Sea Cucumbers, perhaps, because they are homely and harmless, they are the “illegitimate child” of the ocean. I would miss them if they were harvested to extinction.
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