Target: Hiroshi Moriyama, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture in Japan
Goal: Tighten restrictions on sea cucumber fishing in Japan before they’re driven to extinction.
Sea cucumbers off the coastline of Japan are dropping rapidly in population numbers due to overfishing in Okinawa. The animals are used for consumption and the practice of medicine but stand little chance of staying off of the endangered list without increased fishing regulations.
Sea cucumbers, sometimes referred to as the garbage animals of the sea, eat debris, which helps keep the ocean floor and coral reefs clean. Without this service, the welfare of the entire ecosystem and all species living within it are at risk.
Sixteen species of sea cucumber, the squishy, unexpected heroes of the sea, have already been placed on International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, a list of species threatened with extinction. In many regions of Southeast Asia, sea cucumbers are harvested for medicinal elixirs as well as a culinary delicacy. As they continue to be fished for these purposes, the ecosystems they help regulate are left with an unoccupied niche and the water is left unfiltered.
Species such as the “Burnt Hot Dog” sea cucumber that have not been traditionally used for consumption and trade are now being over-exploited. The “Burnt Hot Dog” sea cucumber, which resembles a wrinkly, overcooked sausage, is found almost exclusively off the coast of Okinawa and is decreasing in genetic diversity, an indication that the species is reproducing asexually more often than sexually which may be due to their growing rarity.
Sign the petition below demanding stricter regulations on the commercial fishing of sea cucumbers in Japan to protect the sea cucumbers that are so integral to our oceans’ ecosystems.
Dear Minister Moriyama,
The increase in demand for sea cucumbers in Asia has placed pressure on Japanese fisheries to overfish a valued member of the oceans’ ecosystems. Sea cucumbers play a vital role in the ocean’s ecologies, filtering the detritus and debris out of water to allow for the usage of clean water by other animals.
The welfare of these animals is currently being ignored. Sixteen species of sea cucumber have already been placed on the “red zone” list, indicating they are likely to become endangered if precautions are not taken to ensure their well-being. Because these animals are so critical in protecting our oceans, I urge you to implement increased restrictions on the fishing of sea cucumbers.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ed Bierman