NEW DELHI: The CBI has taken over investigation into sea cucumber poaching syndicates in Lakshadweep on a reference from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau after 173 dead and 46 alive pieces of the marine mammal were seized from a boat around Suheli Charyakara island.
The Forest Department in Kavaratti had intercepted a boat in January carrying 173 dead sea cucumbers, a protected rare sea mammal, preserved with salt while 46 were found alive in the fish tank on the boat having reported value of around Rs 2 crore and four persons aged between 19 and 44 years were taken into custody, officials said.
Initially, the case was probed by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau under the Environment Ministry but later it was decided to hand it over to the CBI which took over investigations on Thursday registering an FIR in the matter, they said.
More cases related to seizures of sea cucumbers and arrests of poachers are likely to be taken over by the agency soon, they said.
Sea cucumbers are much sought after in China and South East Asian cultures for their protein content.
The species which enjoys highest protection in India under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act is considered a rare delicacy in fancy restaurants of South East Asia with some species costing over USD 3,000 a kilo and even an ordinary one going for as high as USD 150 per plate.
These mammals are crucial to coral reef health as they excrete calcium carbonate, an essential material accumulated by the reef needed for its health and growth, they said.