Photo via Wikimedia creative commons
Sea cucumbers are admittedly one of those critters where you look at them ant think, "Exactly what is your purpose?" The nubbed blobs don't seem to do much at first glance, other than maybe an easy snack, but it turns out they could be exactly what we need to stave off pollution from aquaculture. Because sea cucumbers act like the worms of the sea, cleaning up the sea bed and mixing marine sediments, scientists at Newcastle University in North East England are calling them the next miracle for marine pollution.
Newcastle University reports that Dr Matthew Slater, an expert in sea cucumbers and part of Professor Stead's team, claims the sea cucumber could become a natural, organic cleaner on fish farms around the world - including the UK - as well as a source of food.
The researchers plan to introduce sea cucumbers to fish farms around the UK as both cleaners and a food source, and see if the pollution issues of fish farms are lessened. Because the animals need just clean water and a whole lot of nutrient-rich waste, they could be a perfect companion to fish farms.
"Man's impact on the sea has escalated in recent decades and it is vital we work quickly to try to reverse some of the problems we have caused. Key species of sea cucumbers are already dangerously close to extinction unless we pull back now and give them a chance to recover," stated Professor Selina Stead, former President of the European Aquaculture Society, in the press release.
Because of the close confines of fish in fisheries -- even open ocean fisheries -- diseases spread easily. It's of concern for the fish farmers as well as wild populations that could suffer from any epidemics. Bringing in a natural assistant like the sea cucumber could not only reduce pollution from filthy fisheries but also help sea cucumber species bounce back in numbers. It could prove to be symbiotic farming as natural as keeping cows and chickens together.
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