Saturday, 19 April 2014

Booming demand pushes Florida to limit sea cucumber harvest

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida is capping the number of sea cucumbers that fisherman can pull from state waters after booming Asian demand led to four times as many being harvested in 2013 compared to previous years.

The leathery, cylindrical creatures scour ocean floors across the globe feeding on decaying organic matter. Named for their similarity to the vegetable, the marine animals are prized in China, sought for everything from an aphrodisiac to a cure for joint pain.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a statement on Wednesday that from June 1, daily sea cucumber hauls will be limited to 200 per vessel.

The decision was prompted by a booming trade that saw fisherman pull nearly 60,000 of them from the waters surrounding Key West in 2013.

Previously about 16,000 were caught annually, the agency said. The rule showed how the sea cucumber was "an important part of the ecosystem and how easily affected they are by over-harvesting," said FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley.

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