Reviled in the West, the slimy bottom-feeders known as sea cucumbers or bêche-de-mer (BDM) have recently been described as the ‘the gold of the sea’. Skyrocketing demand for this prized feature of Chinese wedding banquets has driven up the price of bêche-de-mer (lit. ‘worm of the sea’), causing knock-on impacts ranging from sea cucumber smuggling rings to a collapse in sea cucumber stocks to starvation in some parts of the world. In this episode we examine the cautionary tale posed by the fate of the sea cucumber with Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi from the University of Technology Sydney. China’s growing appetite for these slow-moving slugs has sparked ecological and social crises, with at least 24 countries trying to close their sea cucumber fisheries following the sudden collapse of stocks.
Photo credit: Sarahhsia, flickr.