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A hidden harvest

05 Oct 2022

This investigation, one of the winners of the 2022 GRID-Arendal Investigative Environmental Journalism Grants, is about how criminal trade thrives re-exporting sea cucumber via Colombo.

In 2001, India banned the harvest of all varieties of sea cucumber and declared it a protected species under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, whereas in Sri Lanka it is legal and harvesting can be done under a licensing system. Meanwhile, in Mannar, the sea cucumber farms targeting the export market have become the new ‘success story’ in recent years, as long as one does not mind where the marine delicacy originates from, because it brings in foreign exchange. Local fishermen who hold permits to harvest sea cucumbers in the wild leave for mid-sea by early morning in small groups to reach an agreed location through satellite coordinates only to wait for a boat from across the Palk Straits, while pretending to be engaging in diving. Once they initiate contact, the sea cucumbers illegally harvested by Indian bottom trawlers and processed sea cucumber from South India would be transferred to other fishing boats to make it look like a fresh catch.

Originally published in The Sunday Times.

About the Author

Rubatheesan Sandranthan is a freelance journalist at the Sunday Times in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Over the years, he has reported extensively on post-war humanitarian issues, climate change, the environment, and Indo-Lanka fishing disputes. He was short-listed in 2019 and 2020 for a Young Journalist award, presented by the Thomson Foundation (UK) and the Foreign Correspondents Association. The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka recognized his work, naming him Investigative Journalist of the Year (merit) in 2019.

Twitter: @rubatheesan

Facebook: Rubatheesan Sandran

Status: Completed

Type: Investigative Journalism Grants

Author: Rubatheesan Sandranthan

Year of publication: 2022

Publisher: The Sunday Times

Tags: Investigative Environmental Journalism

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