The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has confiscated 300 kilograms of banned sea cucumbers that were to be smuggled to Sri Lanka. They have also arrested and jailed seven persons involved in the smuggling incident and seized over 24 boats worth over 2 million rupees used for smuggling.
Due to the proximity of Rameswaram to Sri Lanka, a large number of banned sea cucumbers, including sea lizards and dolphin paddles have been smuggled across the Gulf of Mannar in recent times.
Last Tuesday, the Mandapam Forest Department patrolled the sea following information received that sea cucumbers were being smuggled to Sri Lanka from the Vedalai beach area in Ramanathapuram district, Tamil Nadu.
Then a local boat coming towards the Vedalai beach saw the forest rangers and went back into the sea without coming ashore. The sea patrol chased the boat and eventually nabbit it near Hare Island (Muyal Theevu), Thoothukudi.
The forest department officials immediately noticed that sea cucumbers were being smuggled through the boat and arrested the men who operated it.
During the investigation, the forest department found that 500 kg of sea cucumbers had been thrown into the sea from the boat and that there were only about 300 kg of them in the boat.
Following this, the Mandapam Forest Department is taking steps to produce Meerankani and Mohammad Nasir from Vedalai in court and imprison them. Also, a boat worth about Rs 800,000 has been seized.
In the last six days, 3,000 kg of smuggled sea cards and 3 patrol boats have been seized and 7 smugglers have been arrested due to an intensive action by the Mandapam Forest Department.
Earlier this month, the leader of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, denounced the encroachment of Chinese businesses engaged in sea cucumber farming in Jaffna and Kilinochchi.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic situation of Tamils has been greatly affected. At this point, there has been a lot of opposition amongst them against the creation of establishments by Chinese people in Jaffna and Kilinochchi in the name of producing sea cucumbers,” he stated.