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Depletion Of The Sea Cucumber Population In The Galapagos Islands

1638 words - 7 pages

Depletion of the Sea Cucumber Population in the Galapagos IslandsElizabeth FoxIntroductionOne thousand kilometers off the Ecuadorian coastline lies the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the home to one of the world's most unique ecosystems. The Galapagos Marine Reserve covers an area about 51,000 square miles. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is measured by a 40 nautical mile radius from each of the outer islands. Within this large area around 2,900 marine species have been found and recorded. The Galapagos Islands have also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site; which has led to the protection of terrestrial and marine wildlife. The Galapagos Islands are also home to a small human population which is dependent on the tourism and fishing industries. More specifically, sea cucumber fishing is a lucrative career to many residents of the Galapagos Islands. The profitability of sea cucumbers in foreign markets has led to the exploitation and depletion of the existing population in the Galapagos Islands. The decrease in number of sea cucumbers could lead to the altering of the marine ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands.[1: "About the Galapagos Marine Reserve," Parque Nacional Galápagos, 29 June 2009, ]Sea Cucumber ExploitationSea cucumbers are marine animals that are related to the starfish. These animals are slug-like and they move around the ocean floor on side-by-side pedal-like feet. Sea cucumbers feed off of the particles on the surfaces of rocks and sand. A diverse variety of sea cucumbers can be found in the shallow low tide of coral reefs, but they can be found in most marine environments. The sea cucumbers can be found in a large range of locations in the ocean, from the deep trenches to the shallow surface at low tide.3 Because of their location, sea cucumbers are very susceptible to overfishing and exploitation.[2: "Sea Cucumber Loss in the Galapagos (SEACUKE)," American University, ][3: "State of the Sea Cucumber and Lobster in the Galapagos Marine Reserve," Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, 29 June 2009, ]The majority of sea cucumbers taken from the Galapagos Islands are sold in foreign markets, more specifically in Asia. In the Asian culture, sea cucumbers are highly valued for their supposed curative, aphrodisiac, and nutritional properties. In an Asian market, different species of sea cucumbers have different values based on the perceived "quality" of the product. The buyers qualify the sea cucumbers based off the size, spikes, and uses in cooking.3 But the price of sea cucumbers fluctuates throughout the fishing seasons. In the beginning of the 2004 fishing season, one kilogram of sea cucumber in brine was bought from fishermen at an average price of 30.25 US dollars. Towards the end of the 2004 fishing season...

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