Climate March: Five reasons why I'm marching for sea cucumbers
April 29, 2017
1. They are a great social deterrent
Have you ever been stuck with that one person at a party that everyone else tries to avoid, or have you ever attracted unwanted attention from the opposite sex at a bar? Well, fear no more, the sea cucumber is the perfect social interloper deterrent.
After writing a story about sea cucumbers I spoke to anyone who would listen about them, after a little time (read ten seconds) their eyes would glaze over and they would quite visibly escape to their sea-cucumberless happy place. While at first this was incredibly frustrating as they just weren't getting the awesomeness of the sea cucumber, I soon realised I held an incredible power to shut people down, turn people off or make them flee in terror; all with the mere mention of this little critter. So next time you're being harassed by that awkward, shuffling menace who wants to tell you about their favourite stamp, or that weirdo at the bar who just doesn't understand facial expressions, hit them with: "Did you know that the sea cucumber actually eats shit for breakfast? (Well, actually their breakfast is supper, cos they're nocturnal.)"
Go on try it, it really does work ninety percent of the time, every time. For that these guys really do deserve some credit.
The warty sea cucumber (Apostichopus parvimensis), solving socially awkward situations so you don't have to. Photo by Roban Kramer/ Wikimedia commons
2.Think where we'd be without them
Imagine where we'd be without those hardworking people who get up at insane hours to remove all our waste from the streets. You really wouldn't want to go out much would you? Well, sea cucumbers are the garbage disposal of the sea. They hover up all the dead creatures, rotting waste and other yummy gunk that falls to the bottom of the sea floor and turn that into nice clean sand. So next time your on a nice beach somewhere, soaking in the rays and downing a few hard-earned cocktails, remind yourself that some of that sand has probably passed through the digestive tract of a sea cucumber. Salud!
3. They are fighting climate change all by themselves
As they plod along on their nightly munching sessions, sea cucumbers are not only cleaning up the ocean floors, but they are also helping out all those coral reefs that we keep hearing are struggling so much. Scientists from the University of Sydney found that all that munching sea cucumbers are doing actually helps to counteract ocean acidification. When they've done digesting, turning their meal into calcium carbonate, which is important for coral construction and growth, sea cucumbers drop their own waste like any normal living being. It just so happens that this waste increases the pH of the surrounding water, thus battling acidification, in turn helping to save coral reefs and countless other marine beasties. Pretty incredible shit, huh?
4. We can actually save them
There's a lot of negative press about species' conservation these days. It's hard to not think that some species don't really stand a chance. Some species of sea cucumbers are up there for sure. Take Holothuria whitmaei and H. scabra for instance, they used to be found all across the Indian and Pacific oceans but have declined between 60 - 90 percent across their entire range. Why, you may ask? Because people, in Asia primarily, keep eating them. This has left around 16 species of sea cucumber on the IUCN's Red List.
This may lead you to think that the sea cucumber is done for. People are never going to stop eating them you may say, but I view sea cucumber conservation with the same cautious optimism as I do the entire climate change discussion. Sure, it involves people giving up something in their lives, but I believe that if people were actually aware of the benefits of giving that thing up it would be all the easier for them to do so.
Sadly, just as we aren't totally sure about what climate change entails, nobody can say what oceans will look like without sea cucumbers.
5. Because who else is going to do it?
Forget your lions, your tigers and your bears. Well, don't because they're important too. But to most, if they are aware of them at all, sea cucumbers are just that turd-lookalike that they saw on youtube or some neo-hipster's t-shirt. So someone has got to speak up for the lowly sea cucumber and add their voice to the climate march, because as much as we talk about reducing ocean acidification through tech, they are out their doing it all by themselves, if only we left them the hell alone to do their shitty business.
P.s Please feel free to prove me wrong and speak out on behalf of sea cucumbers today. Happy marching
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