#LRP16: BDM: Not as Sexy as the Shark

Reviled in the West, the slimy bottom-feeders known as sea cucumbers or bêche-de-mer (BDM, literally ‘worm of the sea’) have recently been described as the ‘the gold of the sea’. Skyrocketing demand for this prized feature of Chinese wedding banquets has driven up its price, causing knock-on impacts ranging from sea cucumber smuggling rings to a collapse in sea cucumber stocks that has even resulted in starvation in some parts of the world. In this episode we examine the cautionary tale posed by the fate of these creatures with Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi from the University of Technology Sydney. China’s growing appetite for these slow-moving slugs has sparked ecological and social crises, with at least twenty-four countries trying to close their sea cucumber fisheries following the sudden collapse of stocks.

Photo credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library

Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim
Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim

Graeme Smith is a China studies academic with the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. Louisa Lim is a former China correspondent for the BBC and NPR, now with the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. Follow them @limlouisa and @GraemeKSmith.