Sea cucumbers are so valuable that people are risking their lives diving for them

Sea cucumbers might not look it, but they are very valuable creatures — a kilo can cost over $3,000.
They are so prized that people will risk their lives to get ahold of one. The rarer these animals get, the deeper divers have to swim to find them.
There are 1,250 different species of sea cucumber in the world. Watch the video above to learn what makes them so expensive.

Narrator: Cucumbers usually cost under $3 a kilo. But sea cucumbers can set you back over $3,000 a kilo. In fact, they’re so valuable people will risk their lives to get ahold of one. They might not look it, but sea cucumbers are pretty special creatures. Just ask this guy, Steven Purcell, one of the world’s foremost experts on sea cucumbers.

Purcell: They’re quite strange animals. They don’t have any limbs, they don’t have any eyes. They have a mouth and they have an anus and a whole bunch of organs in between.

Narrator: These otherworldly animals have been prized as a delicacy in Asia for centuries, where the wealthiest class would eat the animals as a nutritious high-protein treat. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that demand exploded. A growing middle class in China meant more people could afford the luxury. Today, they’re typically dried and packaged in ornate boxes, then given as gifts and served on special occasions. So, the fancier and more unusual-looking, the better. And more expensive. It turns out…

Purcell: The spikier the animals, the higher the price.

Narrator: And of the 1,250 different species of sea cucumber in the world, the Japanese sea cucumber takes the cake.

Purcell: Imagine some sort of mystical dragon slug with all these sort of spikes coming out of it.

Narrator: At up to $3,500 a kilo, it’s the most expensive sea cucumber on the market. Compared to other varieties, like the Golden Sandfish, Dragonfish, and Curry Fish. And even if you order a common species on Amazon, you could still pay over $170 for a plate. Besides presentation, cucumber connoisseurs also value thick, chewy bodies, and to a lesser extent, taste. But the experience of eating them is only part of their appeal. Turns out sea cucumbers contain high levels of a chemical called fucosylated glycosaminoglycan in their skin, which people across Asia have been using to treat joint problems like arthritis for centuries, and more recently in Europe, where people are using it to treat certain cancers and to reduce blood clots. The sea cucumber craze now comes from all sides. You have the original Asian delicacy demand that started in the 1980s, and the new interest from Western pharmaceutical companies. In response, nations have clamored to harvest their local species. From Morocco to the United States to Papua New Guinea, everyone wants in on the sea cucumber trade.

Purcell: It’s just spread like a contagion from one country to another.

Narrator: For example, from 1996 to 2011, the number of countries exporting sea cucumbers exploded from 35 to 83. But unfortunately, sea cucumbers couldn’t handle …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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