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Gastronomic whims devouring species

Totoaba illegal fishing has contributed strongly to the near extinction of vaquita porpoise. Brown sea cucumber fishing and Biznaga cacti consumption are crumbling ecosystems
Totoaba taco - Natalia de la Rosa/EL UNIVERSAL (front).Totoaba illegal fishing- Phile photo/EL UNIVERSAL (back)
30/08/2017
18:28
Berenice González Durand
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Sea cucumbers dig into the seabed introducing essential nutrients and oxygen for marine ecosystems. These invertebrates have a similar function to that of earthworms, however, they are much more valuable than a worm.

The brown sea cucumber is considered a delicacy in the oriental markets reaching USD$ 500 per kilo. Esther Quintero Rivero, Coordinator of Priority Species of the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad abbreviated CONABIO), explains that brown sea cucumbers are used to make soups and healing remedies in China, Japan and Korea.

"Brown sea cucumber fishing is bestial. In the Pacific, its main area of distribution, a catch of 426 tonnes worth USD$ 8 million was recorded once in 2000. Sea cucumbers leave Mexico dry and ground challenging its identification” says the specialist.

Consumers attribute aphrodisiac effects to sea cucumber soup and totoaba crop. Totoaba illegal fishing has contributed strongly to the near extinction of vaquita porpoise.

According to the Mexican Official Standard 059 in the country, there are 49 extinct species, 475 endangered species, 896 threatened species and 1185 species under special protection.

Another gastronomic whim is bringing a cactus species to extinction, the endangered Biznaga cacti. Acitrón is a Mexican popular crystallised sweet made from the fibrous pulp of these cacti. This product is used in the preparation of traditional and iconic dishes such as chile en nogada (poblano chilis filled with a mixture usually containing shredded meat fruits and spices, topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called nogada, and pomegranate seeds, portraying the colors of the Mexican flag) and Rosca de Reyes (a king's cake pastry traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany).

Among the endangered plants in Mexico, cacti are of particular importance. Currently, there is no plant cultivation in any Wildlife Management Units (Unidades de Manejo para la Conservación de la Vida Silvestre abbreviated UMA) due to the long development of the plant of about sixty years. "It is relevant that people know that these cacti are threatened species and should not be consumed, yet its commerce persists since the demand exists," concludes the specialist.

Extinction is the total disappearance of a species anywhere in the world. The planet has faced many extinctions due to natural effects, however, in the last years, the vast majority of extinctions are a result of the direct or indirect impact of human activities. "Species survival is multifactorial, yet in any case, the invasion and destruction of the habitat are the greatest risk species can face. In the end, our survival depends on the survival of all of them."

sg

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