Not as sexy as the shark – by Louisa Lim
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Reviled in the West, the slimy slug-like bottom-feeders of the ocean known as sea-cucumbers have recently won another moniker: “the gold of the sea”. Skyrocketing demand for this prized feature of Chinese wedding banquets has driven up the price of beche-de-mer, causing knock-on impacts ranging from international sea-cucumber smuggling syndicates to a thriving black market to a collapse in sea-cucumber stocks to starvation in some parts of the world.
The fate of the lowly sea cucumber is a cautionary tale into how one country’s growing hunger for a particular food source can reverberate into unforeseen ecological and social crises on the other side of the world.