In the absence of regulations, landings increased from one to three million pounds in the mid-1990s to more than nine million in 2000.
In Southern California, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s law enforcement branch is struggling to shut down an illicit trade from south of the border.
In the latest development, on May 17 charges were filed in San Diego against a father-son team and their Arizona-based company, Blessing Seafood, Inc., for allegedly smuggling more than $17.5 million in sea cucumbers illegally caught off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to Asian markets via the U.S.
Erin Dean, resident agent in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southern California region, says illegal sea cucumbers from Mexico are involved in as many as half the open wildlife investigations there.
In addition, the Service’s law enforcement records, shared by the Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute, show that imports and exports of both animals were being declared to the agency and cleared by wildlife inspectors in 2012 and previously.